United States Poet Laureate (2012-2014)
Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
"Trethewey has a genuine gift for verse forms, and the depth of her engagement in language marks her as a true poet." —Washington Post
"Trethewey’s writing mines the cavernous isolation, brutality, and resilience of African American history, tracing its subterranean echoes to today." —New Yorker
Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. She is the nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States and the author of four collections of poetry, Domestic Work (2000); Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002); Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize—and, most recently, Thrall, (2012). Her book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, appeared in 2010. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. At Emory University she is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing.
Natasha Trethewey is the nineteenth United States Poet Laureate (2012-2013). In his citation, Librarian of Congress James Billington wrote, "Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face." She is the author of Thrall (2012); Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), which was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association; and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000). She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press). A memoir is forthcoming in 2015.
Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. In her introduction to the book, Dove said, "Trethewey eschews the Polaroid instant, choosing to render the unsuspecting yearnings and tremulous hopes that accompany our most private thoughts—reclaiming for us that interior life where the true self flourishes and to which we return, in solitary reverie, for strength."
Trethewey is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Her poems have appeared in such journals and anthologies as American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry. At Emory University she is Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing.
In her second term as Poet Laureate, Trethewey’s signature project is a feature on the PSB NewHour Poetry Series known as Where Poetry Lives. In this series, Trethewey travels with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown to various cities across the United States in order to explore societal issues through a link to poetry, literature, and Trethewey’s own personal experiences.
Where Poetry Lives: PBS NewsHour with Natasha Trethewey
In addition to being United States Poet Laureate, she is the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi, from 2012-2016.
About THRALL (Poetry, 2012)
By unflinchingly charting the intersections of public and personal history, Thrall explores the historical, cultural, and social forces—across time and space—that determine the roles consigned to a mixed-race daughter and her white father. In a vivid series of poems about interracial marriage depicted in the Casta Paintings of Colonial Mexico, Trethewey investigates the philosophical assumptions that underpin Enlightenment notions of taxonomy and classification, exposing the way they encode ideas of race within our collective imagination. While tropes about captivity, bondage, inheritance, and enthrallment permeate the collection, Trethewey, by reflecting on a series of small estrangements from her poet father, comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.
About BEYOND KATRINA: A MEDITATION (Memoir, 2010)
“With Bellocq’s Ophelia and Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey demonstrated an uncanny and urgent empathy for overlooked but crucial persons and events in the American past. Beyond Katrina extends that nuanced vision and compassion into multiple dimensions of the past, present, and future of this immeasurable national tragedy. it is a great interpretive pleasure and a significant emotional experience to follow her as she sifts the personal, historical, political, and geographic modes of experience to reveal what hurricane Katrina has meant—and can and must mean—for the Gulf Coast and the nation as a whole.” —Anthony Walton, author of Mississippi: An American Journey
About NATIVE GUARD (Poetry, 2006)
Natasha Trethewey's muscular, luminous poems explore the complex memory of the American South history that belongs to all Americans. The sequence forming the spine of the collection follows the Native Guard, one of the first black regiments mustered into service in the Civil War. In Trethewey's hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, a plaque honors Confederate POWs, but there is no memorial to these vanguard Union soldiers. Native Guard is both a pilgrimage and an elegy, as Trethewey skillfully employs a variety of poetic forms to create a lyrical monument to these forgotten voices. Interwoven are poems honoring Trethewey's mother and recalling her fraught childhood in which her parents interracial marriage was still illegal in 1966 Mississippi. Native Guard is a haunting, beguiling narrative caught in the intersections of public and personal testament.