UCR alumna awarded 2021 Georgia Poetry Prize

Author: Michaela Miller
May 3, 2021

Jasmine Elizabeth Smith, MFA ’19, won the 2021 Georgia Poetry Prize for her poetry collection “South Flight.” The University of Georgia Press announced Smith as the award recipient in March 2021 and her collection will be published by the press in February 2022.

“I am thrilled that ‘South Flight’ was chosen as a recipient of the 2021 Georgia Poetry Prize,” Smith said. “‘South Flight’ was written as a eulogy and Blacktown blues — an unabashed love letter and ragtime — to the history of Black sovereignty, love, heartache, community, and resistance in my home state of Oklahoma.”

Jasmine Elizabeth Smith

Smith drew on her own journey from Oklahoma, her family and their relationship to the state, and the research she conducted at UCR to serve as inspiration for “South Flight.” Her collection of poetry also calls for examination as to what it means to be Black and free in present day America.

“2021 will mark the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre,” Smith said. “As Oklahoma confronts and revitalizes conversations around Black history; as the city of Tulsa conducts excavations of mass graves in and near Greenwood; as America grapples with the present reality of what it means to be free while Black; it is with the utmost urgency that ‘South Flight’ calls history to speak to this present moment in time.”

The Georgia Poetry Prize was established in 2015 in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia. The competition recognizes excellence in poetry on a national level. The winner is awarded a cash prize of $1,000, a publishing contract with University of Georgia Press, and the invitation to read from the winning work at the two sponsoring locations.

Smith received her master’s degree in creative writing from UCR. Her work has been featured in Black Renaissance Noir, POETRY, and Terrain’s Letter to America Anthology among others, and she was a finalist for the 2020 National Poetry Series and the 2019 Frontier Open Contest. Smith serves as a poetry program specialist and poetry editor for the “Black Lights Art Collective,” a group which aims to facilitate and showcase the creativity of members of the Black diaspora. She is also the co-host of the radio program “Baby Poet,” a teacher lead for UCR’s veterans legacy project, “Along the Chaparral: Remembering the Enshrined,” and teaches language arts and creative writing in the Inland Empire.