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Natasha Trethewey Named 19th U.S. Poet Laureate

Natasha TretheweyNatasha Trethewey, native of Gulfport, Mississippi, and current resident of Decatur, Georgia, has been named the next Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Southerner to hold the title since the original poet laureate: Robert Penn Warren. She is also the first African-American poet laureate since Rita Dove in 1993.

From the New York Times:

Ms. Trethewey’s great theme is memory, and in particular the way private recollection and public history sometimes intersect but more often diverge. “The ghost of history lies down beside me,” she writes in one of her poems, “rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.”

She has devoted much of her career to resurrecting or recreating the histories of people who don’t often make it into poetry books. Her first volume, “Domestic Work” (2000), is about just what the title says: black maids, washerwomen, factory workers.

Tretheway is also Mississippi’s top poet and will be the first person to serve simultaneously as a state and U.S. laureate.

She is connected to Rita Dove in another way: Threthway’s first collection of poetry, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by 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.

Since then, she has published two more collections of poetry, including Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002). Her latest collection of poems, Thrall, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September of 2012.

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