Pulitzer Poetry Winner Tracy K. Smith

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tracy K. Smith, Brooklyn resident and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Life on Mars: Poems, talks about the award and her work writing and teaching poetry.

Show off your poetry!  Tracy K. Smith also teaches at Princeton and she offers this assignment to Brian Lehrer Show listeners:  Write a brief persona poem in the voice of someone in the news lately.  Submit your poem here.

Comments [71]

Ed Caffrey from Milford, NJ

When I lost the '02 senate race by seventeen plus percent,
I said to myself 'If that's the case, I'll run for president."
Now that's not quite as goofy as you, I'm sure, may think.
I didn't need to win, just hang in; think of all that ink!
Wherever I went, I drew a crowd, north, southeast, midwest.
The Pennsy papers were full of me, me and my sweater-vest.
So imagine the voices in my home state at election time next fall:
"Rick for the senate? He's got my vote! This guy nearly won it all!"
So you see? I lose but still I win!
It doesn't matter, either way, I'm in!

Apr. 29 2012 12:06 PM
Ed from Larchmont

(In the voice of Mr. Zimmerman)
I didn't mean to kill you,
Whatever happened there.
But at the clinic down the street
Are killed one hundred children daily.
Many of them Black.
Why you picking on me?

Apr. 23 2012 08:00 PM
Akua Henderson-Brown from Brooklyn, NY

(Trayvon Martin)
By Akua Henderson-Brown

I never got a chance
to go to
my senior prom.
my boys said it would
be wack;
but my girl...
(I can’t say her name—I loved her soooo much!)
was gonna wear a long blue dress,
a “gown” she said, with
silver high heels and I was gonna get
a tux (dad said he would pay for it!)
and wear a top hat—-like biggie.
we were gonna be poppin at the after party!
but I never got a chance
to dance that last dance…
before going off...
to college

Apr. 23 2012 04:54 PM
Ellen Pickus from Baldwin

I'm no monster.
I protected my neighborhood, on patrol,
put myself forward as a community volunteer
while others safely stayed home.
I was Batman.

How could I have known?
Things got out of control, spiraled
like the barrel of my gun,
or the one I thought he held
beneath his hooded sweatshirt.

Apr. 23 2012 02:12 PM
Eclectic Obsvr

Didn't get no higher up fancy meeting trip
Didn't get no Secret Service tip
Now I listen to all the complaints
But is my job is like theirs-- No It AIN'T

GSA Employee

Apr. 23 2012 01:36 PM
lfreundlich from Brooklyn NY


"And who is now the fairest Red Sock"
The autocrat of Fenway's fate?
As Bobby V embraced the mirror,
Alert to hear his name proclaimed,
Enter Youklis, his pride asmoulder
And smote vain Bobby on the pate.

Apr. 23 2012 12:25 PM
Grant from Harlem

Concrete is heavy
Not a groovy blanket fort
Thanks for lifting it.

Apr. 23 2012 12:02 PM
lucy from Brooklyn

I was a small black boy
Abducted, abused, slaughtered
35 years ago.
No headlines shattered the peace
No police dogs, detectives, sought my tormenter.
The six year old white boy absorbed it all.

Apr. 23 2012 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

COngrats Tracy, you are amazing!!

Apr. 23 2012 11:58 AM
will from queens

I am not concerned with the poor
They will be fine as they cling
To the roof of the car
The top are fine too as we
Swoop past you in our
Dressage and plumes
It’s the middle who touch my heart
I will fight for them
On my stead with my sword

Apr. 23 2012 11:57 AM
shady drifter from Brooklyn, New York

When did political whining become poetry? Another worthless prize. Welcome to America, where everything is someone else's fault.

Apr. 23 2012 11:54 AM

Ron Paul Limerick
Ron Paul has a hell-of-a-nerve!
He's explaining the Fed'ral Reserve!
And folks who, to him hark,
Won't be kept in the dark,
From a lesson, big media won't serve.

Apr. 23 2012 11:53 AM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

God Bless Ms. Smith for lacerating Mayor Bloomberg's obscene gassing of Canada Geese, which will continue this summer unless the people intervene.

Apr. 23 2012 11:50 AM
Eliza Shanley from Wilton, CT

I stood my ground
Now it shifts beneath my feet
Quakes, splits open
Swallows me whole

Apr. 23 2012 11:47 AM
RCT from NYC

OMG I am so white
and proud and fatherly
and oops, did I say
white. I didn't mean to;
I meant that I am so right,
right about me,you, the universe,
death, life, wild animals, global
warming and -- oh, I am right
to leave the race because;
OMG, I lost.

by Rick Santorum

Apr. 23 2012 11:47 AM
maz from manhattan

Voice of Mitt

The public mustn't know, darling,
that each day is a croissant,
with candles
we blow out for fun
before we exchange gifts.
We must do our best to
pretend we hate croissants.

Apr. 23 2012 11:36 AM
Tony Graham from Manhattan


Hu’s on first...
For the mo.
I’m outta here.

Hang your head.
Leave the buro.
And close the door behind you.

I could murder a cup of tea.
So damned unfair!
I’m gonna go sit
In Tiananmen Square.

That’s all the tanks you get.

Apr. 23 2012 11:33 AM
Katherine F from Smithtown, ny


If I could breath fire
If I could wield words rapier
sharp, hot as pistols

If I could move a
nation to Burn as I burn
To move together,

magnetic Charged.  But
we slog, disinterested slugs
to opposing poles. 

Apr. 23 2012 11:33 AM
Susan McHale from Greenwich CT

I could have been the President
I could have been his son
I could have had a lot of things
But now my life is done

I could have gone to Harvard Law
I could have traveled far
I could have said good bye to Mom
But now I am a star


Apr. 23 2012 11:23 AM
Bob D from Mountainside NJ

Ron Paul

Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dumb
Democrat or Republican
Tired of the same
Think they're both lame

Beckon freedoms call
How about Dr. Ron Paul
He is the choice
To give liberty a voice

Now it's the time
To stop their ruinous crime
Cast the boot off your thoart
Give Dr, Ron Paul your vote

Apr. 23 2012 11:19 AM
nancy newhouse from new york city

Monsieur Sarkozy, can it be
Your name will work in poesy?
Marine Le Pen has little Zen
Hollande is difficile
The French may vote you out this time
But "Sarko" lends itself to rhyme.

Apr. 23 2012 11:17 AM
Sam Reichberg from Westchester

My vision for the country,
if you read between the lines,
is to copy Egypt
But not Tahir, if you mind.
It's to help our millionaires
improve job creation
in pharaonic splendor.
Nannies, butlers, gardeners, and such..
And millions to build
the pyramids of our times.


Apr. 23 2012 11:16 AM
Viv Hasbrouk from Hoboken

Obama Haiku

whispers from Martin
whispers from Lincoln I hear
polls drown out the sound

Apr. 23 2012 11:16 AM
Joan from New York City

Ode to My Friend, the Car Elevator in My Great Big House

You are the one.
You have made my life complete.
You are the star on top of my Christmas tree.
You are home to the American car industry.
You help keep that precious heart beating.
You are the home of the American dream.
You are the supreme object of desire.
You are the most interesting and exciting part of me.
You are the object of disbelief.
You are the object of scorn.
You are the object of envy.
You are a true original.
You are the only car elevator in La Jolla.
You are wacky in a mysterious and wonderful way.
You are perfect.
You are just right.
You are me, my friend.
You are me.
I am you.
We are America!

Apr. 23 2012 11:14 AM
JHC from NYC

How dare all these liberal baddies
Say that mommies can't leave work to daddies?
To stay home with a kid
Counts as work -- least, it did
If you're driving a couple of Caddies.
-- Ann Romney

Apr. 23 2012 11:13 AM
David from Manhattan

That map is wrong.
Obsolete because of me.
But do not replace it.
I won't last long.

Apr. 23 2012 11:13 AM
Poet-in-waiting from NYC

I'm Newt, and I know History
my IQ is greater than 250
Despite my gravitas
they threw me out on my ass
but I'll pop up at the convention, you'll see!

Apr. 23 2012 11:13 AM

I didn't like his looks
I didn't like his clothes
I didn't like him hanging around.

So I chased him,
and I fought him
and I shot him.

I stood my ground.

Apr. 23 2012 11:12 AM

"George Zimmerman by way of W.B. Yeats"

Boy in a night hoodie troubles my sight,
Bringing out all conviction; it is enough
To move my slow thighs, passionate intensity
Narrows all to a locus, till all sense
Is blood-dimmed; I am loosed upon the world,
I cannot hear the falconer--but wait!
How can I be the worst? Isn't this my hour?

Apr. 23 2012 11:12 AM
Frank Ortega

I'm still 6 and a half,
but I feel much older now.
I walked on concrete that day in 1979,
I wanted to walk to the school bus stop
all by myself. Because I was 6 and a half.
They've been digging for days
in that basement in Soho,
that concrete has been broken up,
On Prince Street a boy can grow up
to become a king.
I know this,
because I have never stopped learning
even though I will be six and a half forever.

Apr. 23 2012 11:09 AM
Tom Jones from Nyack

A Zimmerman Haiku

Keep the neighborhood safe.
Watch the streets; call 911.
No one watching me.

Apr. 23 2012 11:09 AM
Rae from Brooklyn, NY

I went missing in
seventy nine police are
still very behind

Apr. 23 2012 11:08 AM
Nathan Goldberg from Westchester County

Bloomberg Rules

Under the radar and over the top,
I can do anything you cannot stop,
I change the rules with a wink and a nod,
I am more perfect and clever than God.

by Nathan Goldberg

Apr. 23 2012 11:07 AM
wendy from manhattan


ears blowing in wind
free from human disturbance
the roof is quite safe

from Mitt Romney's dog

Apr. 23 2012 11:02 AM
Bill from New Rochelle


I hope I've done
Good to make a bridge
To walk over that Lake
Of Burning Sulpher
To meet
My grandmother.

Uh oh.

Apr. 23 2012 11:02 AM
CM Berger from Brooklyn

I See France

Monsieur Hollande's opus is
no Dreyfus affaire. La lumière of the new day is
coming to La France. Dites
"au revoir" Sarkozy and bye-bye Le Pen--aujourd'hui the nice guy will

Mes amis Americains, are
you watching the stars dance ce soir?
Have you decided yet who will be La VOIX?

A socialist, SOCIALIST leader is
emerging in France, Dit "Bonjour!"

Apr. 23 2012 11:00 AM
Mary from Brooklyn

there is no room for my dog in the car
but there's plenty of space on the roof.
i think he likes it up there
which is why he keeps yowling "WOOOOOF!"

-- Mitt Romney

Apr. 23 2012 10:59 AM
andrew from manhattan

In the voice of George Zimmerman

This time it did not work out
My anger cracked slivers bits of tempered glass
Oh the consequences
Want to moon walk to the moon
Because now I can see it
Can I kiss it
Twitter tweets slalom in orbit Internet
Fetal in my box, dark, wrapped so tight
It holds me
What is really me now
Sorry I cannot say
Even if…….

Apr. 23 2012 10:59 AM
Janelle from New York

Zimmerman’s song

I shot him.
Just a n----- in the night
Self defense against
the dark menace
now I must serve penance?
Liberal nonsense.
Is this a hero’s plight?
To be treated like a n-----
Masses pulling the trigger
Am I some sort of figure?
It just ain’t right.

Apr. 23 2012 10:58 AM
Fred Weinberg from NJ

Mitt's Lament
It's millions I have
And millions you don't
An Occupy movement
Won't pay your rent

But I'm just like you
The everyday man
I'll solve all your Problems
Bet you 10 thousand I can!

Apr. 23 2012 10:58 AM
Sarah from Long Island

George Zimmerman's Tweet:
Hate. Everyone hates me. But he didn't belong in my hood, my home. I belong. I swear! I hate people who are different (Like me.) HATE them!!

Apr. 23 2012 10:57 AM

"Syrian opthamology" (from Bashar Al-Assad's POV)

You see those blast holes in that building?
It's a correction to a systemic astigmatism;
Adjust your sight!
I'll help you.
The wall is gone;
Now you can enjoy a clear view
of my gentle sky
over my green hills

Apr. 23 2012 10:57 AM
Gina from Westchester County

If it will bring you peace, my dear ones
To know what happened after I left you smiling
Thirty three years ago
Then I wish you that knowledge.
But, you have this knowledge: I left you smiling.
Thrilled to face my first taste of independence. My moving on.
We could not know how long that separation would last.
But always remember. I left you smiling.

Apr. 23 2012 10:57 AM
Damian Puniello from Jersey City, NJ

Why question my love?
It's as deep as his pockets,
news cycles ever after.

-Kim Kardashian

Apr. 23 2012 10:56 AM
MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick from Peekskill, NY

Lost One

too much for
the heart to bear,
if only I could
cut through concrete
to feel your
weight upon my
shoulder once again,
my lovely boy, my lost one

Apr. 23 2012 10:55 AM
marc from ABERDEEN, NJ



Apr. 23 2012 10:55 AM
Lynn Zelvin

I'm so sorry about your son
I didn't know
he was so young
So sad,
his wings were clipped in mid flight
As he flew into the barrel of my gun

Apr. 23 2012 10:55 AM
David from Brooklyn

cold ice tea and skittles
plus a bullet to the chest
has put all our grand illusions
'bout this country to the test
just when our aspirations
seemed to be so very blessed
cold ice tea and skittles
laid my poor young soul to rest...

Apr. 23 2012 10:54 AM
Richard Cuneo from Westchester

Finally I am it.
It took so very long, to prove the others wrong.
But finally, I am it.

Apr. 23 2012 10:54 AM
Don Wigal from NYC

The First Lady:

Eat Well.
Be Well.
Have a plan.
Yes, you can.

Apr. 23 2012 10:51 AM
Sarah rivera from Westport , ct

When I am no longer the president of France,
Will the lovely Carla perform her au revoir dance?
It was all so haute
When I stood on my votes
Please, socialists, just one more chance...

Apr. 23 2012 10:51 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Bushwick

If only Joseph Biden would,
Do the Democratic Party good,
And exit. Stage. Left?

Until then I am utterly in stasis
Clintonian momentum without a basis,
-- Like a patient etherized upon a table.

In the Middle East and Myanmmar,
Obama wagon hitched to Clintonian star
Nowhere to go now after State
Comes the borborygmos 2016 wait

Apr. 23 2012 10:50 AM
Janet Nostro from Tourist from Miami

I shot a man in self-defense;
I didn't like his clothes.

I shouted for him to stop,
Then he punched me in the nose.

Now it's a national case ---
Some might say - because of race.

I ask of the media, "please do not hound!"
I was only trying to "Stand My Ground."

Apr. 23 2012 10:48 AM
Janelle Farris from New York, NY

Zimmerman’s song

I shot him.
Just a niggah in the night
Self defense against
the dark menace
now I must serve penance?
Liberal nonsense.
Is this a hero’s plight?
To be treated like a niggah
Masses pulling the trigger
they see me as a figure.
It just ain’t right.

Apr. 23 2012 10:47 AM
Rufus Mangrove from Brooklyn

"the white van"

hidden by moonbeams
i fly from my prison's cell
wishing on the wind

Apr. 23 2012 10:46 AM
Bob from Hartsdale, NY

In the voice of Trayvon Martin's mother...

When fear eats the soul
And a bullet is added
Tragedy follows

Apr. 23 2012 10:46 AM
Nathan Goldberg from Westchester County

Everything Romney

If I look at myself,
I can see everything
I want to be,

If you look at me,
You can see everything
You want me to be,

I can be everything
To everyone,
Wealthy and poor,
Free and oppressed,
Right left and center,

You will be given plenty
of reasons to love me,
If you just ignore the others.

by Nathan Goldberg

Apr. 23 2012 10:44 AM
Gert Aslobaumj from Connecticut

I was speaker but I wouldn't bend
So I lost it, but now I intend,
To get up there and then
Do it over again,
Do you think I can only pretend?

Apr. 23 2012 10:41 AM
oscar from ny

Roses are red violets are blue..lets go to Colombia nd find the hot girls if its true..

Apr. 23 2012 10:40 AM
Brian V from Brooklyn

Its legal down there.
So why should POTUS care?
Had her stay for the night.
Shouldn’t have haggled over price.
Wonder if the TSA’s hiring.

Apr. 23 2012 10:39 AM
BL producer

Please remember the assignment is to write in the voice of someone in the news, not your fellow poets!

Apr. 23 2012 10:37 AM
Theresa from New Rochelle

Michigan's the state
where the trees are the right height
Gosh, that was awkward.

Apr. 23 2012 10:34 AM
Bob from Manhattan

Why um, the cookies appear fake,
But no need for concern
For goodness sake,
I am equally fake
For goodness sake.
Howdy Y'all
I should get going as
My wife's Cadillac awaits

Apr. 23 2012 10:34 AM
Richard Storm from Hell's Kitchen

-- for Judy Shepard and Sybrina Fulton
Another mother’s son is dead.
He was different, out of place,
perhaps underestimated his enemies.
Hardly capital crimes.

I could be curled up in bed,
blinds drawn, taking sedatives.
I’m making statements, talking to reporters,
thanking supporters, crying out for justice.

I know it will not bring my son back.
It may prevent another mother feeling what I feel.

My son is dead.
Let it mean something.

Apr. 23 2012 10:32 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I’m a leftie from Jersey,
my handle is Liz.
What I say is so righteous,
well....just ‘cause it is.

Sanctimonious, superior….
I’m so glad I’m me.
I thrive on stale slogans
And hyperbole.

Men are all monsters,
every woman a saint.
You’re evil and sexist
Till I say you ain’t.

I feast on attacking
Those different from me.
Oops...only if they’re rich,
straight and ring/tattoo-free.

I know that I’m wise
in this pithy remark…
‘cause I heard some dude say it
in Zuccotti Park.

Apr. 23 2012 10:30 AM
Theresa from Long Island

I wish




Who is

Voice of 911 operator in Zimmerman case

Apr. 23 2012 10:29 AM
khadija from brooklyn

re-poetry: language was not specified, so, here goes:

Il est parti,
d'etre venu.

(Gone, before he even arrived)

Apr. 23 2012 10:29 AM
Carol Tremper from Newton, NJ

Persona Poem in Zimmerman's voice:

Look, it’s my mission.
I’m alone out there
looking out for…

Not over there.
Here. My home.
Neighborhood watch.

Just me.
Whadda ya mean?

Puffed up?
Hey, I volunteer.
Younger, yeah, but…

I didn’t know…
Scared of me?
Yeah, I had a gun.

I protect people.
He had a hood on
hiding his face.

I can’t tell you
where I’m at.
I need protection.

Apr. 23 2012 10:27 AM
Amy from Brooklyn, NY

george, released into the night,
guided to this next stage of justice
protected from himself.

wrangled power, brokered race.
everyone has a broken heart.

let it come to this,
so that we awaken to the noisy truth.
let our love for the hoodied youth unfold,
so that innocence can be recognized
and each surrenders fear.

Apr. 23 2012 10:24 AM
bread from darien CT

summer is near and flip-flops are essential gear
at least that is what I hear.....
dog on the roof voters on the fence
flip flop or not...I am on the defense!

minimum clothes or minimum wage -
should it pace with inflation that's what I says!
oops i mean raise it too much and then you'll see
the job losses it causes - and they go over seas!

Roe vs. wade has been around a long time...
like stem cell research...i thought it was fine...
now, being persuade to change my mind....
not sure how to think just want to be kind!

Now, please vote for me and not Barack
cuz i run corporations and been round the block
I am awesome and pretty and handsome ta boot
I am the guy who will protect all your loot!

Apr. 23 2012 10:15 AM
Liz from East Brunswick

Here I stand, a rich white male,
Elected into power, without fail.
No condom, mammography, or pill,
Abortion funding, you know I'll kill.
Hand in hand with the right to life,
I declare war on my sister, my mother, my wife.

Apr. 23 2012 09:31 AM

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