Tracy K. Smith to Headline Inaugural Walter Nathan College in the Schools Literary Festival
The Walter Nathan Literary Initiatives, in partnership with the University of Minnesota College in the Schools Program and Creative Writing Program, is delighted to announce the first annual Walter Nathan College in the Schools Literary Festival on the morning of November 4, 2022. Tracy K. Smith, 22nd US Poet Laureate, will be the inaugural speaker. Smith will share her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Life on Mars with 400 area high school students. CIS Literature students will also have the chance to ask questions, and Smith will sign books.
“When the students meet Tracy K. Smith, they will see a poet who looks and sounds like them, which breathes life and joy into the study of her words,” said Jane Steiner, who teaches at North High School.
Through this event, students will learn about the art and craft of creative writing and how they might pursue the study and writing of literature through post-secondary education. The Walter Nathan Literary Initiatives donated copies of Smith’s poetry collection Life on Mars to every student enrolled in CIS Literature this fall. Students will study the collection in class before meeting Smith in person.
“I am thrilled that my students have the opportunity to engage with Tracy K. Smith, a poet who is currently producing and publishing,” said Molly Gill, who teaches CIS Literature at Heritage STEM Academy. “I think there is a misconception about poetry that it is old and boring. Smith’s poetry breaks this stigma for them.”
Students have also submitted original poems to the first annual Walter Nathan High School Poetry Contest. The contest will be judged by award-winning poet Eloisa Amezcua, and the winner will have the opportunity to read their poem alongside Smith and Amezcua at a 7 pm public evening reading on November 4, 2022. Community members are encouraged to attend.
"The Walter Nathan College in the Schools Festival is bringing Tracy K. Smith's poetry to life for hundreds of students across the Twin Cities,” said Dr. Katherine Scheil, University of Minnesota English Professor and College in the Schools Literature Program Coordinator. “Students and teachers are thrilled with this amazing opportunity to connect with one of the greatest living authors in America, and to engage with her important poetry."
The Walter Nathan Literary Initiatives
The Walter Nathan Literary Initiatives was established in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota in 2022. The initiatives’ first-year programming has included two reading events: “Celebrating Great River Review,” which featured readings by award-winning contributors to UMN’s graduate student-run literary magazine; and “First Books,” which honored debut publications by MFA alumni and local and national writers. This fall, the fund supports the inaugural Walter Nathan College in the Schools Literary Festival and High School Poetry Contest.
The Creative Writing Program
The Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at the University of Minnesota is home to a top-tier MFA program and an undergraduate minor in creative writing. Each year, the MFA program accepts up to nine students in fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction; with mentorship by stellar faculty, these students devote themselves to the creation of a book-length manuscript. The creative writing minor offers undergraduates opportunities to learn about writing, revision, and creating imaginative literary work, and provides a foundation in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.