JOHN WARNER SMITH began writing poetry while building a successful professional career as a public administrator and a banker. His debut poetry collection, A Mandala of Hands, was published in late 2014 by Aldrich Press / Kelsay Books. Smith's second collection, Soul Be A Witness: Songs to Boys of Color, was published in 2016 by MadHat Press.
Smith earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans Low-Residency MFA Program, where he completed summer residencies in San Miguel, Mexico and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon completing the MFA, he received a fellowship to attend the Cave Canem Retreat, a three-year 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 poets Tracy K. Smith and Terrance Hayes. Smith credits Tracy K. Smith for helping him to challenge point of view and see a poem as something “becoming” rather than being.
Smith’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Callaloo, Antioch Review, The Worcester Review, Kestrel, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, American Athenaeum, Fourteen Hills: The San Francisco State University Review and other literary journals. His book-length manuscript was a finalist in the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition, and his short collection, “Hunting Dragonflies,” was a finalist in the 2012 Poetry Contest of the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival.
Smith teaches English, African American Literature, and Creative Writing at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Since November 2007, he has directed Education’s Next Horizon, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to reforming public education in Louisiana.