“Poetry is very close to my heart,” Trethewey said. “The idea of having this position from which to try to promote poetry to a wider audience is thrilling, but also humbling.”
The Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University’s newly minted status is but the latest distinction earned by the 46-year-old.
Trethewey was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007 for “Native Guard,” a collection of poems whose title refers to a regiment of African-American soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Trethewey’s first collection, the self-explanatory “Domestic Work,” also earned several accolades.
Perhaps laureateship alum Rita Dove’s introduction to the latter body of poetry sums up the impact of Trethewey’s application of her craft.
“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,” Dove wrote.
Trethewey also penned a memoir, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” in the aftermath of that natural disaster.
Trethewey, who also recently earned the same honor in her home state of Mississippi, is the first national poet laureate to hail from the South since Robert Penn Warren was appointed in 1986.
Her work has been described by the New York Times as combining “free verse with more traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle to explore memory and the racial legacy of America.”
For now, Trethewey is content to set her agenda.
“I hope to spend these few months of the summer before my [poet laureate] term actually begins thinking about how best I might serve and promote poetry in the nation,” Trethewey said.
Trethewey will next be seen delivering the keynote address at the Decatur Book Festival on Aug. 31. She is expected to unveil her latest collection of poems, “Thrall,” festival officials said.
Festival Executive Director Daren Wang said Trethewey is emblematic of the rich literary heritage found in the city.
“The heart and soul of the [festival] has always been the vibrant Atlanta writing community,” Wang said. “Natasha’s elevation to Poet Laureate is confirmation of the spectacular talent we have here.”