I know Natasha through her service as a board member for the Associated Writers and Writing Programs (see AWP site). I value the conversations we have shared about mixed-race heritage, misleading appearances, and historic continuity. I appreciate her accessibility. Consistent with that quality, she will be in residence in DC as poet laureate, not at a distance from the Library of Congress offices. I expect a very hands-on, committed tenure as PL.
Her work ranges from formal sonnets to elegant free verse. Her three published books range from more formal poetry (patterned verse) to skilled experiments in “docu-poetry,” to use Joseph Harrington’s term. She references historical situations as a frequent topic, but with her own interpretive and emotional focus. The American past threads through all Trethewey’s writing; it adds gravitas. Her poem “Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata,” after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619 (forthcoming in Thrall, Sept., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has one of the most evocative descriptions of a woman, comparing her, and her servitude, to round kitchen containers. The 17th century portrait suggests historic context for women's experiences, with nuanced suggestions about both confinement and beauty. It begins:
She is the vessel on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand….
Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966. She earned an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University and M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by 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. 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. In her introduction to Domestic Work, Rita Dove said, "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." Trethewey's honors include the Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She is Professor of English at Emory University where she holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry. In 2012, Trethewey was named the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress.
|<>Academy of American Poets and the rest of the poem “Kitchen Maid”: ><>http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22865><>>|