Maine Coast Semester 61 students and their teachers from the Literature and the Land class had the honor of hearing the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith, give a reading in Lewiston last week. It turned out to be even more than they expected.
Smith, who became Poet Laureate in 2017, is journeying across the United States to lead a project she calls “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities.” At the Lewiston Public Library, she read some of her own poems and then asked members of the audience to read some of her favorites from an anthology of others’ poetry. She fully engaged the audience, asking them what they heard and what they imagined as they listened to each poem.
“She spoke about the power of poetry and the value of perspective-taking,” says Amy Wood, who co-teaches Literature and the Land with Sarah Rebick. “It was fantastic. We loved it. She read a number of poems from Wade In the Water, the collection we are reading in class. Students from Semester 61 asked specific questions regarding her poems and craft. She took time to have individual conversations with each of our students after the event and signed their books. She is very gentle, very open.”
Tori Barrow, a semester student from Winchester, Massachusetts, says the evening with Smith turned into “an informal English class. It was so, so fun. She talked to all of us and seemed really kind. I don’t know how she had the energy to face all those people. I thought it was really beautiful.”