Poetry is Essential to Democracy
An Interview with Tracy K. Smith
Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone,
That the others have come and gone—a momentary blip—
When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,
Busting at the seams with energy we neither feel
Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,
Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,
Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones
At whatever are their moons. They live wondering
It they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,
And the great black distance they—we—flicker in.
“My God, It’s Full of Stars”
Although Tracy K. Smith’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of poetry Life on Mars boldly addresses lofty issues from the existence of god to the possibility of life on other planets using such science fiction icons as Charlton Heston, David Bowie, and the film 2001, she is equally interested in the role that poetry can play in our civic life.
In this episode of Humanities Connection, Smith, a professor of creative writing at Princeton University, talks about what she sees as the essential link between poetry and democracy and how poetry can help make each of us better citizens. Along the way, she reads an excerpt from Life on Mars, talks about why David Bowie is such an inspiration to her, and what it means to see literature as world-changing. Smith is the featured speaker at NJCH’s awards event 40YearsNew, which celebrates the Council’s fortieth anniversary, on October 10, 2012 at Drew University.
Photo by Tracy Chang.
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