Tracy K. Smith - Wade in the Water

CWRU's Common Reading selection for 2021-2022 is Tracy K. Smith's Wade in the Water.  The Writing Program offers the following resources for using this text in First Seminars and other writing courses.

Photo of Tracy K. Smith


Wade in the Water won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for poetry in 2019, and Smith served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017-2019. You can hear Smith read the title poem of the collection, and you might consider how Smith’s poetry serves as a form of cultural and historical critique.  The collection may inspire you to experiment with “found” and “erasure” poems, to explore the resources collected on the Poetry Foundation’s website, or to investigate voices from CWRU’s history (try searching the Student Newspaper Archive).

A group of thirteen faculty members shared their responses to Smith’s poetry in “One Book, Many Voices”, an essay that considers the work from various disciplinary perspectives.  You might read this essay with your students to consider the value of different kinds of writing.  Kelvin Smith Library’s Research Guide for the Common Reading includes a link to the essay, as well as additional resources.

Smith will speak at our Fall Convocation on Wednesday, August 25 at 4:45 p.m.  This formal opening of the academic year is an opportunity to reflect on the history, symbols, and traditions of the university. You might attend this event as a class, and faculty might ask students to reflect on their experience and their expectations for college.  We have found that a brief, written reflection can help faculty plan activities and assignments to support their student writers, and reflection is an important academic success skill for students.

Our Resources for Faculty page offers some general advice about working with student writers, and the Writing Resource Center consultants are ready to work with faculty, staff, and students on their writing projects this year.