Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Tracy K. Smith delivers a plea for the American soul

A woman poses next to a book
Former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith shares a deeply personal portrait of her family, America’s history and her path to sobriety in her new memoir, “To Free the Captives.”
Courtesy photos

Tracy K. Smith is known for her powerful poetry. She's a Pulitzer Prize winner and former U. S. Poet Laureate.

Yet her newest book, “To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul,” is memoir — a classification she initially resisted. But as she tells MPR News host Kerri Miller, she eventually saw that her own story is a kind of microcosm of America’s story. It’s a meditation on who we’ve been, who we are and who we want to become.

On this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, Smith joins Miller to expand on the ideas in her latest work, as it examines the nature of power, freedom, race, prayer, her parent’s lives, her own drinking and what she calls "the conundrum of history.”


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