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Mississippi and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey

By Sandra Knispel | Published 18 Sep 2012 09:39pm | comments
Mississippi and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey in Cleveland on Tuesday

She’s not only the current Mississippi poet laureate, she’s also the brand new poet laureate of the United States. MPB’s Sandra Knispel spoke on Tuesday with Natasha Trethewey in Cleveland, where she gave her first Mississippi reading as the nation’s 19th poet laureate at Delta State University.

Nat sound Trethewey reading: " In the cemetery last June, I circled, lost -- weeds and grass grown up all around -- the landscape blurred and waving. At my mother's grave, ants streamed in and out like arteries, a tiny hill rising above her untended plot."

Trethewey is reading from her poem Monument – an elegy to her mother who was murdered by her second ex-husband when Trethewey was a 19-year-old college junior.

Trethewey continues reading: "Believe me when I say I've tried not to begrudge them their industry, this reminder of what I haven't done. Even now, the mound is a blister on my heart, a red and humming swarm."

The poem is contained in the book Native Guard for which the Gulfport-native won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. The daughter of a white father and a black mother, the 46-year old writes about race issues but also American history at large, specifically the Civil War.

 “I certainly want to reinscribe or inscribe into our cultural memory as Americans those things that have been left out, or erased or overlooked," says Tretehewey. 

“Her prominent theme has been a recuperative effort, historically speaking. That is to investigate aspects of African American experiences that were either pretty invisible or less visible.. just things that have gone hidden," explains Ann Fisher-Wirth, a professor of English at the University of Mississippi and a poet in her own right, who knows Trethewey well.

“With Native Guard what she has done is go into certain aspects of Civil War history and African American troops that were totally swept under the blanket as far as I know.”

As Mississippi poet laureate, Trethewey is serving a four-year term and is currently touring Mississippi for a number of readings from Thrall, her latest collection of elegant poems on race, history and her own family.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News.



Mississippi and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey in Cleveland on Tuesday



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