U.S. Poet Laureate (2012-14) and Mississippi Poet Laureate (2012-16) Natasha Trethewey

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive on 2016-05-16 01:06Z by Steven

U.S. Poet Laureate (2012-14) and Mississippi Poet Laureate (2012-16) Natasha Trethewey

New Letters On The Air
Catalog Number: 20160212

Angela Elam, Producer/Host

In the first part of this interview, Mississippi Poet Laureate (2012-16), Natasha Trethewey talks about her work that deals with history, racism, and family, including her first creative non-fiction book, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf CoastTrethewey also reads from her most recent poetry collection, Thrall, which includes an elegy for her now deceased father, the poet Eric Trethewey, in front of an audience as part of the 2015 Humanities Lecture Series at Kansas University’s Hall Center for the Humanities. New Letters on the Air also has an earlier interview that features Trethewey’s first three poetry books, including the Cave Canem Prize winning, Domestic Work, and the Pulitzer Prize winning, Native Guard. The second part of this interview and an earlier 2008 program with Natasha Trethewey are available in our audio archives.

Order the interview here.

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44 on 44: Forty-Four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, United States on 2015-12-05 21:14Z by Steven

44 on 44: Forty-Four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Third World Press
319 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0883783177

Edited by: Lita Hooper, Sonia Sanchez, and Michael Simanga

To give voice to the historic election of President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, this anthology of essays, poetry, and creative non-fiction documents the conversation on President Obama’s campaign within the African American community, and the dialogue after his election and since he has taken the Oath of Office. Included are perspectives on the historical moments during President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, the finale of the 2008 general election, and Obama’s new plans and policies since he took office in January 20, 2009. Editors Lita Hooper, Michael Simanga, and Sonia Sanchez have assembled an impressive list of forty-four contributors to capture the energy and excitement, the expectation and hope. Featured are works from Lita Hooper, Michael Sigmanga, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Askia Toure, Quincy Troupe, Chuck D, Pearl Cleage, Natasha Trethewey, Tony Medina, Jessica Care Moore, Nathan McCall, Jasmine Guy, Farai Chideya, Keith Gilyard, Opal Moore, Sharan Strange, and Tina McElroy Ansa.

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Natasha Trethewey Reactions

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-11 23:50Z by Steven

Natasha Trethewey Reactions

The Arc of the Universe Bends Towards Justice
The College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio

Caitlin Ziegert Mccombs

Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer prize winner and past Poet Laureate of the United States, came to visit and read some of her poetry for an audience much too large for Severance 09. After listening to some of her works read aloud, it seems she seamlessly weaves the topics of history, race, and personal narratives in the style of free verse. Before beginning each poem, Trethewey would provide some background of their origins. The first few poems she read were about her parents, in which she lingers on the issue of anti-miscegenation laws during the 1900’s as her mother and father were an interracial couple (her mother was African American and her father, white). This was a nice precursor to her readings of her new poetry collection, Thrall. Trethewey explained that ‘thrall’ was a name for someone born into servitude, which is quite fitting for a collection investigating the oppression of people of color and racial tensions over the past few hundred years. In her poem, Taxonomy, she deconstructs 18th century Casta paintings from colonial Mexico. She describes how race at this time was seen as an equation. There are whites and Mexicans, but more complexly: a white and an Amerindian mix equals a Mestizo, a Mestizo and an Amerindian mix equals a Cholo, a white and a Spaniard/African mix equals a Mulato, and so forth. These castas, or race/breed/lineage constructions dictated the lives of those so labeled. Trethewey describes the “weight of blood” as getting “heavier every year”, and the paintings of castas as “a last brush stroke [that] fixed him in his place”…

Read the entire article here.

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Two Worlds Walking: Short Stories, Essays, and Poetry by Writers of Mixed Heritages

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Media Archive, Poetry, United States on 2015-03-06 02:53Z by Steven

Two Worlds Walking: Short Stories, Essays, and Poetry by Writers of Mixed Heritages

New Rivers Press
January 1996
256 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0898231496

Edited by Diane Glaney & C. W. Truesdale

In this landmark collection, 42 writers — including Diane Glancy, Siv Cedering, and Lewis Turco — go beyond a simple idea of diversity to explore what it means to “walk in two worlds.” While many of the poems, short stories, essays, and memoirs in this anthology explore the tensions of being “mixed blood,” all of the pieces offer a surprising and resilient perspective on what it means to be “American” today.

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Poet Natasha Trethewey Explores Public and Personal Histories of Race in America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2015-01-14 18:16Z by Steven

Poet Natasha Trethewey Explores Public and Personal Histories of Race in America

The Aspen Institute

Caroline Tory, Program Coordinator
Aspen Words, Aspen Colorado

On a recent winter night, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey addressed an Aspen Words audience in Aspen, CO, on the intersection between art and activism. “[I am] a poet interested not only in the sounds of language and in its beauty, but in its ability to help us deal with our most difficult knowledge and help us move towards justice.”

Trethewey is the author of four collections of poetry: “Domestic Work,” “Bellocq’s Ophelia,” “Native Guard,” and “Thrall,” as well as a work of nonfiction, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” She served two terms as the 19th US poet laureate from 2012 to 2014, and is currently poet laureate of the state of Mississippi. Trethewey also directs the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta, where she is Robert W. Woodruff professor of English and creative writing…

…Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, the daughter of parents whose mixed-race marriage was illegal in the state at the time. Her writing includes many references to her father, a poet, professor, and Canadian immigrant, as well as her mother, who was a social worker. Trethewey’s poems weave together the story of her own interracial roots with the history of race in America, while also balancing this narrative with lyricism.

“It is where the poems shade toward the lyrical that I’m able to get closer to the emotional truth of a poem,” said Trethewey in her talk. As an example, she referenced the poem “Incident” from her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection “Native Guard.” In it she tells the story of the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross on her family’s yard after her grandmother hosted a voter registration drive for disenfranchised African Americans in the 1960s. Reworking an initial draft of the poem, Trethewey restructured it to capture the entire story of the incident in the first four lines. This freed her to use the rest of the poem to highlight other emotional truths, such as the need to remember, which are at least as important as the particular facts of what happened.

Trethewey read a number of poems that use art as a reference point, including a series from her most recent book “Thrall.” Titled “Taxonomy”, this series of poems is based on a group of Casta paintings from 18th century colonial Mexico, which portrayed mixed blood unions in the colony…

Read the entire article here.

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Natasha Trethewey Presents Final Lecture as U.S. Poet Laureate, May 14

Posted in Articles, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2014-05-07 16:17Z by Steven

Natasha Trethewey Presents Final Lecture as U.S. Poet Laureate, May 14

News from the Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Natasha Trethewey will conclude her tenure as the 19th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress with an evening lecture in the Coolidge Auditorium on May 14.

The lecture will start at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14, in the Coolidge on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. A book signing and reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets and reservations are not required, but early arrival is strongly recommended.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said “Natasha Trethewey’s final lecture as Poet Laureate marks the conclusion of a remarkable two terms. Throughout that time her commitment and her enthusiasm have elevated the position, and the art.”

In her first term as laureate, from 2012 to 2013, Trethewey spent five months in residency in the Poetry Office at the Library of Congress, meeting with members of the general public. In her second term, from 2013 to 2014, she launched a signature project: a series of on-location reports with the PBS NewsHour called “Where Poetry Lives.” The series has featured poetry programs and workshops with Alzheimer’s patients in Brooklyn, N.Y.; middle-school students in Detroit, Mich.; medical students in Boston, Mass.; and teenagers of the King County Youth Services Center in Seattle, Wash. For more information, visit www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/where-poetry-lives/.

The lecture on May 14 will include Trethewey’s reflections on the state of poetry based on her experiences during her office hours and the filming of “Where Poetry Lives.” She also will consider the legacy of poets like Robert Penn Warren on the laureateship; the role of the poet as public intellectual; and the role of poetry in the remembrance of and reckoning with our national past—with particular focus on the 50th anniversary of milestones in the Civil Rights Movement.

When Trethewey was named Poet Laureate in 2012, Billington called her “an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. 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.”

Trethewey is the author of four poetry collections, including: “Thrall” (2012); “Native Guard” (2006), winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (2002); and “Domestic Work” (2000). She is also the author of a nonfiction book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast” (2010).

Her many honors include the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, Trethewey was appointed Poet Laureate of Mississippi, and her term as state laureate has coincided with her laureateship at the Library—a first for the position…

Read the entire press release here.

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Natasha Trethewey Links History to Poetry at Convocation

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, United States on 2014-04-06 17:10Z by Steven

Natasha Trethewey Links History to Poetry at Convocation

Fearless and Loathing: Oberlin’s Independent Student Website

Zoey Memmert-Miller

Natasha Trethewey, the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States spoke in Finney Chapel for the third convocation of the spring semester. She read poetry from throughout her career and spoke on the ways she understands history through the lens of her intimate, personal relationships.

In his introductory speech President Marvin Krislov cited this understanding, noting the presence in her poems of “personal and social histories intertwined.” This was particularly pertinent given the date of her visit: March 4. This year marked the first anniversary of the day that classes were suspended following the vandalism and hate crimes on campus.

Before ceding the stage to Trethewey, Krislov acknowledged the student activists who have been working to change campus discourse, as well as Sarah Cheshire ‘14, Lillian White ‘16 and Cuyler Otsuka ‘14, the organizers of the “Oberlin History Lessons Project” which was displayed in the lobby of Finney Chapel and based around one of Trethewey’s poems.

The connection between Trethewey’s poetry and Oberlin’s remembrance of these events was clear. “I believe history is ongoing,” Trethewey said, before quoting Faulkner: “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.” Poetry, she emphasized, is a way to connect people, a way to affect the heart and the intellect.

A Southerner and the daughter of a white father and a black mother, Trethewey’s work focuses on the history of race in American society and history, some poems more obliquely than others. She began the evening with “Miscegenation”, a poem about her parents’ illegal marriage in Ohio. The poem introduced Trethewey’s style—lovely language and loaded statements fitted into the confines of strict form. She then recounted when the KKK burned a cross on the lawn of her childhood home, after her grandmother allowed the parking lot to be used for voter registration, and followed this with a pantoum, which further recalled the incident…

Read the entire article here.

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Conversations with Natasha Trethewey

Posted in Anthologies, Biography, Books, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-12-05 20:32Z by Steven

Conversations with Natasha Trethewey

University Press of Mississippi
256 pages
6 x 9 inches, introduction, chronology, index
Hardback ISBN: 9781617038792
Paperback ISBN: 9781617039515

Edited by:

Joan Wylie Hall, Lecturer in English
University of Mississippi

United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (b. 1966) describes her mode as elegiac. Although the loss of her murdered mother informs each book, Trethewey’s range of forms and subjects is wide. In compact sonnets, elegant villanelles, ballad stanzas, and free verse, she creates monuments to mixed-race children of colonial Mexico, African American soldiers from the Civil War, a beautiful prostitute in 1910 New Orleans, and domestic workers from the twentieth-century North and South.

Because her white father and her black mother could not marry legally in Mississippi, Trethewey says she was “given” her subject matter as “the daughter of miscegenation.” A sense of psychological exile is evident from her first collection, Domestic Work (2000), to the recent Thrall (2012). Biracial people of the Americas are a major focus of her poetry and her prose book Beyond Katrina, a meditation on family, community, and the natural environment of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The interviews featured within Conversations with Natasha Trethewey provide intriguing artistic and biographical insights into her work. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet cites diverse influences, from Anne Frank to Seamus Heaney. She emotionally acknowledges Rita Dove’s large impact, and she boldly positions herself in the southern literary tradition of Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. Commenting on “Pastoral,” “South,” and other poems, Trethewey guides readers to deeper perception and empathy.

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Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-06-26 20:08Z by Steven

Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Boston Review

Paisley Rekdal, Associate Professor of English
University of Utah

To be a biracial and female writer might suggest one of two things: first, that my gender and race are the subject matter of my work or, second, that the forms of my writing reflect my identity. Between these two possibilities–race and gender as theme versus race and gender as enacted form—a tension exists, perhaps arising from our current distrust of both narrative and identity politics. To write from the first position—race and gender as theme—boils a poem down to the recounting of experience, most likely the narrator’s marginalization. It is an easy poetry to identify, and it is a type whose detractors (rightfully and wrongly) criticize as an attempt to engender in the reader both sympathy with and catharsis through the personal revelations of the narrator. It is a poetry that at its worst risks becoming performative cultural “kitsch” through its manipulation of readers’ sensitivities to race and racism but, at its best, illuminates some part of the complexity currently surrounding ideas of racial authenticity and identification.

The second option—identity as enacted form—is harder to pinpoint, relying as it does as much on the writer’s stated objectives for the work, as on readers’ stereotypes about what kind of poetic form female biracialism could take. On the surface, we might expect “biracial” forms to be highly skeptical of an imaginatively coherent first person. They could be poems that rely on fragmentation, that are deeply engaged with critical theory regarding perception and language. They could be ironic, self-reflexive, suspicious of catharsis, engaged more with the playful destruction of archetypal myths of identity than in reifying them. In short, they would be hard to distinguish from much of contemporary poetry today…

Read the entire article here.

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Library of Congress Appoints Natasha Trethewey To Second Term as U.S. Poet Laureate

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-23 15:50Z by Steven

Library of Congress Appoints Natasha Trethewey To Second Term as U.S. Poet Laureate

News from the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

Trethewey Will Launch Project as Part of the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed Natasha Trethewey to serve a second term as U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

“The Library and the country are fortunate Natasha Trethewey will continue her work as Poet Laureate,” said Billington. “Natasha’s first term was a resounding success, and we could not be more thrilled with her plans for the coming year.”

Trethewey’s second term will begin in September. She will follow previous multiyear laureates—such as Kay Ryan, Ted Kooser, and Billy Collins—and undertake a signature project: a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series. Trethewey will join NewsHour Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown for a series of on-location reports in various cities across the United States to explore several large societal issues, through a focused lens offered by poetry and her own coming-to-the-art.

The Poetry Series, featured on the PBS NewsHour, engages a broad audience through thoughtful, in-depth reports on contemporary poets and poetry. Online, the NewsHour features weekly poems on its Art Beat blog as well as on a special page dedicated to poetry.

Ms. Trethewey’s first term as the 19th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry was noteworthy for her “Office Hours,” during which she met with the general public in the Library’s Poetry Room—harkening back to a tradition established by her predecessors in the post from 1937 to 1986. For her second year, Trethewey will move beyond the capital to seek out the many ways poetry lives in communities across the country and addresses issues and concerns of Americans.

In that pursuit, she will draw on her own life experiences as a guide—visiting places she feels a personal connection to, such as a domestic violence center, an inner-city school, a prison or juvenile detention center, a nursing home, or places that have suffered natural or man-made disasters. The specific locations will be determined closer to the start of the Poet Laureate’s second term. In her travels to cities and towns for the series, Trethewey also intends to hold “Office Hours on the Road”—meeting with members of the general public as she did in the Library…

Read the entire news release here.

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