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Academy of American Poets names Erin Elizabeth Smith Poet Laureate Fellow

Erin Elizabeth Smith

Please join the UT English department in congratulating Erin Elizabeth Smith, Distinguished Lecturer in English, selected as a Poet Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets. She is one of 23 laureates honored nationally by the Academy. Founded in 1934, the Academy promotes the reading and creation of poetry in America through a variety of initiatives, awards, and contests. The Poet Laureate Fellow program provides a $50,000 grant for recipients to lead public poetry programs in their communities, with an additional $114,500 in matching funds from various organizations.   

Dr. Smith joined the English department in 2009 and teaches a variety of writing-based classes. She teaches creative writing courses, introduction to poetry, and public writing. Smith is an award-winning instructor and a vibrant part of our intellectual and creative community. When former Poet Laureate Joy Harjo was on the department’s faculty, Harjo invited Smith to guest lecture in her seminars.

Smith is the founder and executive director of Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts, which she launched in 2013. Sundress was recently profiled in The Compass. The feature, entitled “Prose, Poetry, and Poultry” highlights the working farm from which Smith runs Sundress and offers writer’s residencies. She has published her poetry in a variety of national publications and she is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently DOWN (2020). She has served as the Poet Laureate of Oak Ridge, Tennessee since 2022. 

Most recently, Smith has stepped up to be the department’s inaugural Director of Career Development, bringing her considerable experience and expertise in publishing, internships, and community partnerships to the department’s efforts to help English majors find satisfying careers.

Dr. Smith will be using the fellowship grant from the Academy of American Poets to organize and host a Retreat for Survival and Healing, a two-day event in Oak Ridge in March 2024. The retreat will afford survivors of sexual assault the opportunity to process their experiences through writing or other creative media in a safe and supportive environment. The event will be facilitated by writers with experience in trauma-based teaching techniques and is open to writers of all experience levels. Participants will have the opportunity to write and receive feedback, learn about publishing opportunities, and connect with other writers. For more information, contact, or visit