JOHN WARNER SMITH began writing poetry while building a successful career as a public administrator and a banker. Smith has published four collections of poetry: Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (ULL Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness (MadHat Press, 2016) and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books - Aldrich Press, 2015). His fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America, is forthcoming in 2019 from 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, North American Review, Quiddity, The Worcester Review, Kestrel, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, American Athenaeum, Transition, and other literary journals. His first book-length manuscript was a finalist in the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition. Smith's poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for the Best of the Net Anthology by Sundress Publications. 

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.