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Thursday, April 26, 2012

There Is No "A" In Trethewey, But There's A Poet Laureate

What a fine way to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month... the 46th birthday of Natasha Trethewey, Mississippi's Poet Laureate!

  • Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on April 26, 1966. Her father and step-mother are poets, too. Poor lady didn't stand a chance against the Muses of Poetry.
  • I have something in common with Ms. Trethewey... She grew up in libraries, too. She would spend her time pouring over books while her father studied in the college library. (I used to go down to the Children's Floor of our public library and ask the Youth Librarian for recommendations while my mother worked upstairs. She had really good taste!)
  • One of Trethewey's books of poetry was inspired by John Ernest Joseph Bellocq's famous (or infamous) Storyville portraits. He photographed the working girls of the red light district in New Orleans around the turn of the last century. Trethewey visualized a prostitute named Ophelia, and a book of poems was born. Amazing! (Want to learn more about Storyville? Check out the Storyville, New Orleans web page. The Mississippi Library Commission also has Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red-Light District available to check out.)
  • Natasha Trethewey is also a member of The Dark Room Collective. This group of writers, artists, and intellectuals was conceived after James Baldwin's funeral in 1987. It allowed African Americans to compose, write, create, dream, and discuss together and, at the same time, lend one another support. A Reading Series was soon added. Many young African American writers were inspired, and in turn, inspired others here.
  • Trethewey won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She also won the 2008 Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in Arts for Poetry and in January of this year began a four year tenure as Mississippi's Poet Laureate. I think she deserves some applause.
I've enjoyed reading some of her poetry because much of it speaks of Mississippi. I'll leave you with part of her poem Providence, found in her book Poetry. (You can find all of her books here at MLC!)


What's left is footage: the hours before
Camille, 1969—hurricane
parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
fronds blown back,
a woman's hair. Then after:
the vacant lots,
boats washed ashore, a swamp
where graves had been. I recall
how we huddled all night in our small house,
moving between rooms,
emptying pots filled with rain.
"Natasha Trethewey." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.
Reed, Brian. "The Dark Room Collective And Post-Soul Poetics." African American Review 41.4 (2007): 727-747. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

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