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Poet laureate Tracy K. Smith to headline Northwoods Writers Conference

Pulitzer Prize winner and poet laureate Tracy K. Smith will do a reading series at the Northwoods Writers Conference at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at BSU's American Indian Resource Center. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

BEMIDJI—The Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference is back in Bemidji, and it's reeled in one of the biggest names in the field for this year's event.

Tracy K. Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and acclaimed memoirist, is headlining the annual conference this year as the distinguished visiting writer. On Wednesday, June 14, the Falmouth, Mass., native was also named the new poet laureate of the United States by the Library of Congress. And tonight at 7:30 p.m., she'll be at Bemidji State's American Indian Resource Center for the NWC's reading series.

"It's incredibly exciting. We're very fortunate that the timing smiled on us in this case," said conference director Sean Hill. "But I don't think it's gonna change how brilliant Smith is. She's the same brilliant poet and teacher that she was (before the honor). We get someone who's been recognized and appointed with the task of basically being the poet ambassador for our country. And she comes here. I think that's really fantastic for us and the people in the region here."

"This has been in the works for several months," Smith added. "I really love the way that (this conference) brings writers into this beautiful space with a really rich cultural history and community around it. I feel very privileged to be able to come and be a part of it."

Along with Smith's reading, attendees will be kept busy through Sunday as the 15th annual conference gives opportunities for sharing, workshopping and growing as writers.

"I love the conversations that happen in those spaces," said Smith. "This is what I do... being in these spaces where the sense of what is of value is something that I share."

"It's a lot of celebratory working: celebrating writing but also working on making our writing better," Hill added. "To be able to bring these writers, writers of the caliber we get, up here and to bring people together and celebrate creative writing, has been a great joy in my life."

Others taking part in the reading series throughout the rest of the week include: Many Voices—Participants and Faculty (Thursday), Ravi Howard (Friday) and Elizabeth Bradfield (Saturday), all at 7:30 p.m. in the AIRC.

"It's really wonderful, kind of mind-boggling honestly, that we can build this thing and people will come and attend and be a part of this community," said Hill. "That's what we're trying to do here: build a community."

If you go:

What: Tracy K. Smith at Northwoods Writers Conference

Where: American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight

On the web: www.northwoodswriters.org

Full conference schedule:

• Wednesday, June 21: Distinguished Visiting Writer, Tracy K. Smith. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir "Ordinary Light," a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction and selected as a Notable Book by the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as three books of poetry.

• Thursday, June 22: Many Voices — Participants and Faculty.

• Friday, June 23: Ravi Howard. He is the author of two books of fiction, "Like, Trees, Walking" and "Driving the King." Howard has received fellowships and awards from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, the Hurston-Wright Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

• Saturday, June 24: Elizabeth Bradfield. She is the author of the collections "Once Removed," "Approaching Ice," and "Interpretive Work" Bradfield's poems have appeared in "The New Yorker," "Poetry," "Orion" and elsewhere.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, he is currently studying Creative and Professional Writing at Bemidji State. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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