Black writer named to second term as nation’s Poet Laureate



U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey poses outside the president’s office at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, file)

by Zenitha Prince

(NNPA)–African-American poet Natasha Trethewey has been reappointed to another term as Poet Laureate of the United States, “the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans,” according to the Library of Congress.

Trethewey, the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta, is also serving a four-year term as the poet laureate of the state of Mississippi.

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

The poet laureate is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress and serves from October to May. In making the appointment, the Librarian consults with former appointees, the current Laureate and distinguished poetry critics.

When Billington announced Trethewey as the 19th poet laureate in June 2012, he praised her as “an outstanding poet/historian” whose 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.”

Born in Gulfport, Miss. in 1966, Trethewey graduated from the University of Georgia followed by earning master’s degrees in poetry from Hollins University and from the University of Massachusetts, according to

The English and creative writing professor is the author of four collections of poetry. Her first, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by former poet laureate 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.

Dove wrote in Domestic Work’s introduction: “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.”

Her later works included: Thrall (2012); Native Guard (2006), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002). She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010).

In her first term as Poet Laureate, Trethewey made her mark with her “Office Hours” during which she met with the general public in the Library of Congress’ Poetry Room—harkening back to a tradition established by her predecessors in the post from 1937 to 1986.

For her second term, she plans to travel to U.S. cities to examine how Americans are exploring and expressing societal issues through poetry, and report on her discoveries in a regular feature on the PBS “NewsHour Poetry Series.”

Reprinted from the Afro American

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