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NMSU English professor is fifth NPR NewsPoet, records works for Library of Congress

NMSU assistant professor of English Carmen Gimenez Smith spent a dizzying few days in Washington, D.C. this week. Smith spent one day at the offices of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and another visiting the Library of Congress where she recorded some of her works as part of the "Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape."

New Mexico State University assistant professor of English Carmen Gimenez Smith was in Washington, D.C., to participate in National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" broadcast as the monthly NewsPoet. She also recorded selected pieces of her published books at the Library of Congress for the "Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape." (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Gimenez Smith is the fifth person selected to participate as NPR's monthly NewsPoet. Each month the program invites a poet to the newsroom to write an original poem as part of the show. Producer Ellen Silva selected Gimenez Smith to spend Monday, May 21, with NPR reporters and producers to stir her creativity.

"I had about three hours to write the poem," Gimenez Smith said. "I sat in on a story pitch meeting, and I took lots of notes, recorded language from the meeting, and they kept me apprised as to the stories that would or wouldn't be appearing on the show as well as any stories that were evolving while the day went on."

Gimenez Smith started the day with some ideas for poems and decided to use Frank O'Hara's poem "The Day Lady Died" as the scaffolding for her NPR effort. With the deaths of disco era icons Donna Summer and Robin Gibb weighing on her mind, she crafted a poem with a throbbing beat and a melody reflecting some of the angst of our time: troops in Afghanistan, presidential candidates and Italians protesting austerity measures and burning art.

Based on the online comments, her poem brought tears to at least one listener.

Gimenez Smith spent an extra day at the Library of Congress as part of a project with Letras Latinas, a program out of Notre Dame with a mission to enhance the visibility and appreciation of Latino literature in the U.S.

She spent about an hour recording selections of her four published books (three poetry and one prose) for the "Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape." The archive was started in 1943 and makes voice and video recordings of poets and prose writers in order to preserve selected passages of their works. So far nearly 700 authors have been recorded, nine Nobel laureates among them.

"It's an amazing honor to be included in an archive alongside writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriela Mistral," Gimenez Smith said. "I'm thrilled that Letras Latinas is working to archive the work of contemporary Latino writers and poets."

Learn more about Gimenez Smith's visit to the Library of Congress on the Letras Latina's Blog at http://bit.ly/KQmNVc .

Gimenez Smith plans to share her NPR NewsPoet experience with NMSU students when she teaches a documentary poetics class in the fall.

"I'm going to try to duplicate this exact experience," Gimenez Smith said. "It reminded me of how important it is to be engaged in the world and in the issues that affect us immediately. It also reminded me of the pressure my students must feel when I ask them to write a poem on command."

Listen to Gimenez Smith as the NewsPoet on "All Things Considered" at http://n.pr/Kgz1bY .

Gimenez Smith is the editor-in-chief of NMSU's literary journal Puerto del Sol and a publisher of Noemi Press, which publishes poetry and fiction. In 2010, she was one of eight Latino poets in the U.S. selected to participate in "Ocho Poetas," a collaboration to advance the cause of Latino publishing. Gimenez Smith won three awards last year for her poetry and creative non-fiction works. She will have another collection of poetry coming out next year.