In July, Yerkes Observatory welcomed former United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to the Riviera Ballroom as part of its Summer Speaker Series. Smith read selections from her books “Life on Mars,” “Ordinary Light: A Memoir” and others.
Smith was raised in California, where her father, an engineer, worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. (Her book, “Life on Mars,” honors her father’s work in astronomy.) Since 2006, she has served on the faculty of Princeton University. From 2017 to 2019, she served as the United States Poet Laureate, the official poet of the United States.
At the event at the Riviera, Smith was introduced by Yerkes Executive Director Dennis Kois and went on to read several of her poems, including one of her most famous poems, “My God, It’s Full of Stars.” She then engaged in a discussion about poetry and astronomy with Yerkes Director of Programs Walt Chadick, a poet himself. “This was one of the most extraordinary honors I’ve had in my professional career,” he said.
The United States Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress to serve a two-year term. During this term, the U.S. Poet Laureate travels around the country making appearances and giving readings. “Tracy K. Smith is a universal and American treasure,” Chadick enthused. “It was a great gift to our area that she visited Yerkes, participated in our rebirth and reimagining, and graced Lake Geneva with a public reading and talk.”