Smith earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1994, and in 1997, she graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in creative writing.
After she left New York, she headed to California to complete a poetry fellowship at Stanford University. The wife and mother of three now teaches creative writing at Princeton University.
2. She doesn’t only write poems. She’s a nonfiction and opera writer, too.
In addition to her three poetry books, she’s also published a memoir titled, “Ordinary Light.” The book, which explores her coming-of-age, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015.
Smith is also working on an opera about the legacy of slavery in the South.
3. She’s the youngest of five children.
The Washington Post reported that Smith was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and raised in Fairfield, California. Her mother was religious and her father served in the Air Force, later working as an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope. She details the role religion and awareness of race have informed her upbringing and experiences.
4. The Pulitzer Prize is one of many awards she has received.
She received the Pulitzer Prize of Poetry for "Life On Mars" in 2012, but she's also been recognized by Essence Magazine, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Academy of American Poets and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.
5. As the new poet laureate, Smith wants more people to add poetry to their reading lists.
"I think the responsibility, really, is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture," Smith, 45, told NPR. "To me, that means talking to people -- getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry."
Kelcie Willis with the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this story.