On September 13th, American University MFA faculty and students were in attendance as the Library of Congress welcomed Natasha Trethewey for her inaugural reading as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
Emerging from the stage doors in the library’s Coolidge Auditorium, an emotional Trethewey spoke to an entirely packed house.
The night featured readings from her latest book of poems, Thrall, which explores – among other things – her relationship with her poet father, Eric Trethewey, and her biracial heritage, through the lens of Spanish and American colonial history. Her other four books include the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Native Guard and the memoir Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington opened the event by noting her selection as a poet laureate who still has many years of poems ahead of her. At 46, Trethewey counts herself among the youngest U.S. poets laureate as well as the first from the South since Robert Penn Warren was named to the original post in 1986.
Of her work, Dr. Billington has said, “Her poems dig beneath the surfaces of history – personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago – to explore the human struggles that we all face.”
Trethewey – who is also the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi – saw standing ovations during both her entrance and exit from the reading, which was followed by a reception and book signing.
This January, Trethewey will take up residency at the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, where she will then give a reading of historical-based poems in conjunction with the library’s exhibition The Civil War in America.
She presently lives in Atlanta and teaches at Emory University.
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