Biography of Natasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey (born April 26, 1966) is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also directs the Creative Writing Program.
Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on 26 April 1966, Confederate Memorial Day, to Eric Trethewey and Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough, who were married illegally at the time of her birth, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws with Loving v. Virginia. Her birth certificate noted the race of her mother as "colored", and the race of her father as “Canadian”.
Trethewey's mother was part of the inspiration for Native Guard, which is dedicated to her memory. Trethewey's parents divorced when she was young and Turnbough was murdered in 1985 by her second husband, whom she had recently divorced, when Trethewey was 19 years old. Recalling her reaction to her mother's death, she said, "that was the moment when I both felt that I would become a poet and then immediately afterward felt that I would not. I turned to poetry to make sense of what had happened".
Natasha Trethewey's father is also a poet; he is a professor of English at Hollins University.
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Natasha Trethewey Poems
- New Orleans, November 1910 Four weeks have passed since I left, and still I must write to you of no work. I've worn down
Domestic Work, 1937
All week she's cleaned someone else's house, stared down her own face in the shine of copper--
Here, she said, put this on your head. She handed me a hat. you 'bout as white as your dad, and you gone stay like that.
Theories Of Time And Space
You can get there from here, though there's no going home.
We tell the story every year— how we peered from the windows, shades drawn—
I was asleep while you were dying. It's as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
Elegy For The Native Guards
We leave Gulfport at noon; gulls overhead trailing the boat—streamers, noisy fanfare—
Kitchen Maid With Supper At Emmaus, Or T...
—after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619 She is the vessels on the table before her:
Here, the Mississippi carved its mud-dark path, a graveyard for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
I am four in this photograph, standing on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
I returned to a stand of pines, bone-thin phalanx
What's left is footage: the hours before Camille,
In 1965 my parents broke two laws of Mississippi; they went to Ohio to marry, returned to Mississippi. They crossed the river into Cincinnati, a city whose name
Overhead, pelicans glide in threes— their shadows across the sand
Here, the Mississippi carved its mud-dark path,
a graveyard for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
Here, the river changed its course,
turning away from the city as one turns,
forgetting, from the past— the abandoned bluffs,
land sloping up above the river's bend—
where now the Yazoo fills the Mississippi's empty bed.
Here, the dead stand up in stone, white marble,
on Confederate Avenue.