Radio Boston Radio Boston

Support the news

Falmouth-Born Poet Wins 2012 Pulitzer Prize14:21

This article is more than 8 years old.

Tracy K. Smith is the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She won the award on her 40th birthday, for her third collection of published poetry, "Life on Mars".

Smith was born in Falmouth, grew up in California, but returned to Massachusetts as an undergraduate at Harvard. She now teaches at Princeton University.  She joined us to talk about her poetry roots in Cambridge.

Excerpts From "Life On Mars" by Tracy K. Smith

The Weather in Space

Is God being or pure force? The wind
Or what commands it? When our lives slow
And we can hold all that we love, it sprawls
In our laps like a gangly doll. When the storm
Kicks up and nothing is ours, we go chasing
After all we’re certain to lose, so alive—
Faces radiant with panic

The Speed of Belief – (Excerpt)
In memoriam, Floyd William Smith 1935–2008

When your own sweet father died
You woke before first light
And ate half a plate of eggs and grits,
And drank a glass of milk.

After you’d left, I sat in your place
And finished the toast bits with jam
And the cold eggs, the thick bacon
Flanged in fat, savoring the taste.

Then I slept, too young to know how narrow
And grave the road before you seemed—
All the houses zipped tight, the night’s
Few clouds muddy as cold coffee.

You stayed gone a week, and who were we
Without your clean profile nicking away
At anything that made us afraid?
One neighbor sent a cake. We ate

The baked chickens, the honeyed hams.
We bowed our heads and prayed
You’d come back safe,
Knowing you would.


  • Tracy K. Smith, poet, Pulitizer Prize Winner


This segment aired on April 27, 2012.

Support the news