MTA Commissions Poem by Alumna Tracy K. Smith '97 for COVID-19 Memorial

Amanda Breen
February 11, 2021

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has commissioned a poem by Writing alumna Tracy K. Smith ’97 for its COVID-19 memorial, which honors the more than 100 MTA employees who have lost their lives to the virus. 

The memorial takes its title from Smith’s original poem “Travels Far”:

An original score by composer Christopher Thompson was also commissioned for the tribute. MTA Arts & Design Director Sandra Bloodworth, who is a visual artist, oversaw the creative effort, with contributions from Cheryl Hageman and Victoria Statsenko. MTA New York City Transit Senior Advisor Andrew Wilcox co-led the project. Connie dePalma, Gene Ribeiro, and Gary Jenkins provided graphics support, with web design by Hannah Birch. 

Smith served as the 22nd US Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2019. She is the author of four books of poetry: Wade in the WaterLife on Mars, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize; Duende, recipient of the 2006 James Laughlin Award; and The Body’s Question, which won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her memoir, Ordinary Light, was published in 2015. 

Smith is also the recipient of a 2004 Rona Jaffe Award and a 2005 Whiting Award. She was the Literature protégé in the 2009—2011 cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

She was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University from 1997 to 1999. She has taught at the City University of New York, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia University, and is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

The Travels Far memorial video is available to view here