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  • Julian Reynoso

Living Writer Clint Smith Speaks To Aspiring Writers

By: Julian Reynoso, Contributor


Clint Smith came to Canisius University on Tuesday and spoke to students twice, first for a small group of invited students and faculty, and again at 7 p.m. in the Montante Cultural Center.


Smith is a writer and poet who has written many books and poems that have made appearances in several publications, including the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Paris Review.


The conversation in the class was primarily focused on Smith’s book “How the Word is Passed," which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, the Stowe Prize and was selected as one of the ten best books in 2021 by The New York Times.


Smith began by sharing an inspirational early encounter with poetry and writing. He went to Davidson College with a soccer scholarship and found his love for poetry at a poetry club that his friend took him to. They then started a poetry club at Davidson. After developing his passion for poetry at Davidson, he later moved on to graduate school at Harvard University, where he graduated in 2020. During his time there, he was deeply moved by devastating incarceration and education rates and by the action of the Black Lives Matter movement.


After reviewing his life until now with the class, Smith answered questions from students about the book that they had read. He explained that the most important factor when writing “How the Word Is Passed” was the proximity to and the sensory experience of the locations he visited when researching for his book. “The sensory experience amplified my understanding of what happened," Smith noted, "but it also amplified the pain.”


Smith wrote "How the Word Is Passed" with the intention of reaching both high school and college students. He wrote the book because he wanted to learn more about slavery and its effects. “I don’t write these books because I’m an expert on the subject matter," Smith said, "but because of the opposite.”


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