John Warner Smith


19524 Arcadian Shores Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70809

Author's Bio

John Warner Smith is the author of four collections of poetry. His fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America, is forthcoming from MadHat Press in 2019. Smith began writing poetry while building a successful professional career as a public administrator and a bank executive. His last public sector position was service on the cabinet of Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Labor, where he led the recovery of the state’s workforce development system in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Smith earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Upon completing the MFA, he received a fellowship from the Cave Canem Foundation to attend the prestigious writing program founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. Smith is also a three-time participant of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, where he studied under award-winning poets Tracy K. Smith and Terrance Hayes. Smith teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Since November 2007, he has directed a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to reforming public education in Louisiana.

Publications & Prizes

Muhammad's Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018)
Spirits of the Gods (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2017)
Soul Be a Witness (MadHat Press, 2016)
A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books, 2015)
Prizes won: 

Smith is the 2019 winner of the Linda Hodge Bromberg Award.  His poetry has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and for the Sundress Best of the Net Anthology. His first manuscript was a finalist in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition. In August 2019, Smith was appointed the State Poet Laureate of Louisiana by Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Smith will serve a two-year term. 

More Information

Gives readings: 
Travels for readings: 
Identifies as: 
African American
Fluent in: 
Born in: 
Morgan City, LA
Raised in: 
Lake Charles, LA
Please note: All information in the Directory is provided by the listed writers or their representatives.
Last update: Feb 07, 2020