Smith, who takes over for Juan Felipe Herrera, will follow previous poet laureates in seeking to increase poetry's popularity among "average" Americans.
Robert Pinsky carried out the most successful project for this purpose, asking Americans to submit their favorite poems. That has resulted in several popular anthologies.
Billy Collins also gained a splash of attention with his 180 project, in which poems were disseminated among high school classes. Herrera has kept a lower profile during his two-year term while giving readings across the country.
Smith, a Princeton professor who won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 collection "Life on Mars," now seeks to bring poetry to those places left behind by the U.S. economy and which supported Donald Trump, who during his presidency has shown little or no appreciation for poetry or any arts for that matter. His budget proposes massive cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Television and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Contemporary poetry embodies the social and cultural liberalism that draws the ire of small-town Americans. Smith's program might raise understanding, or bring further divisions.
Traditional poets such as Robert Frost or the still active Richard Wilbur might prove more palatable to rural readers than younger urban-oriented poets. While recognizing that many in her audience won't accept poems with controversial themes, Smith should offer a wide range of voices.