Poet explores the human condition

Poetry lovers flocked to the New Library Auditorium Oct. 2 for this year’s first edition of the Visiting Writer’s Series, sponsored by Ink.

The tranquil yet emphatic voice of poet Tracy K. Smith captivated a full audience of eager listeners. Smith read works from her books, “The Body’s Question” and “Duende.”

The tone of the evening was established with Smith’s reading of “Duende’s” titular poem. The book, awarded the James Laughlin Award, embodies the “dark and dangerous energies that the artist is trying to channel from within,” according to Smith.

The dark qualities of the poem are playfully contrasted by the incorporation of Spanish flamenco themes.

Smith also read from her first book, “The Body’s Question,” including the poem “Appetite.” Regarding the book’s compelling title, Smith said, “It struck me as preposterous that our body is a question, but at the same time it is true . (It’s) an invitation that has a little bit of a threat to it.”

Smith also read some of her most recent works, which included “The Universe Is a House Party” and “What If You Had Gone Anyway.” Between readings, she offered insight on the poems through thought-provoking, humorous anecdotes.

Though she initially appeared timid, Smith quickly enchanted the room with both her profound words and melodic voice.

Her humble demeanor and down-to-earth persona bolstered the fluidity of her words. Smith’s relaxed interaction with the audience eased any sense of intimidation inspired by her complexity.

When questioned on her best tactic for countering writer’s block, Smith said, “I put my energy into other mediums . the camera helped me draw information from what I can see. It gave me a sense of the power of the image.”

Smith concluded the night with a love poem titled “Everything That Ever Was.” True to the whole of her work, the poem illustrated her passionate and unconventional style.

Smith described life as a series of questions, rather than an attempt to answer the impossible. This quality distinguishes her work from her contemporaries in its celebration of uncertainty and the elusive.

Through her poetry, Smith invites readers to approach life as she does her writing —- with the attitude that “.the impossibility of the task makes it an exciting thing to do.”