Being named U.S. Poet Laureate—officially Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress—is the highest honor this country bestows on a poet. In recent years, the position has involved some degree of service to “broaden the audiences for poetry.”
For Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, that translates into crisscrossing the country to give public readings at schools, colleges and literary festivals, a rigorous tour of duty that began Sept. 13 at the Library of Congress and concludes May 6, 2013, at the Smithsonian Institute.
One of those stops is her alma mater, the University of Georgia, where she will appear as this fall’s Charter Lecturer at 2 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Chapel. A public reception and book signing will follow in Demosthenian Hall. Sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, the Charter Lecture Series was established in 1988.
Trethewey’s appointment was announced in June by Librarian of Congress James Billington, who called her “an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren.” Trethewey will reside in the Washington, D.C., area from January through May of 2013 and work in the Library of Congress.
Trethewey was previously featured at Library of Congress National Book festivals in 2004 and 2010. Billington said of her readings, “I heard in her voice a classical quality that can speak to the widest possible audience.”
Trethewey has written four poetry collections, including Native Guard, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and Thrall, published this year. She also is the author of a nonfiction book, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, published by the UGA Press in 2010.
Trethewey has been a contributor to The Georgia Review, UGA’s internationally recognized quarterly journal of arts and letters, and recently joined the journal’s Friends Board. Following her visit to UGA, The Georgia Review is sponsoring her appearance and that of several other Georgia writers at the Georgia Literary Festival at Jekyll Island, where she will deliver the keynote address on Nov. 10.
“We at The Georgia Review are greatly pleased by the recently flourishing relationship the journal has had with Natasha,” said editor Stephen Corey. “Her works are featured in our spring 2012 and fall 2012 issues.”
Born in Gulfport, Miss., in 1966, Trethewey has written about being the child of a white father and black mother who had to travel to Ohio to be married because of laws against interracial marriages still in effect at the time. Later, her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to Atlanta, where she attended predominantly black public schools. She enrolled at UGA, where she was a cheerleader and earned a B.A. in English. She then earned an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University, where her father is currently an English professor, and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.