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March 3, 2007AWP Conference, AtlantaFrom the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Natasha Trethewey was born on April 26, 1966, in Gulfport, Mississippi. She earned an MA in poetry from Hollins University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts.

Her first collection of poetry, Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 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 three more collections of poetry, including Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012); Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Bellocq's Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002).

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 the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2012, Trethewey was named as both the state poet laureate of Mississippi and the 19th U.S. poet laureate by the Library of Congress. In 2013, she was appointed for a second term, during which she travelled to cities and towns across the country meeting with the general public to seek out the many ways poetry lives in American communities and reported on her discoveries in a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series. She was succeeded in 2014 by Charles Wright.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012)
Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
Bellocq's Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002)
Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000)

Theories of Time and Space

Natasha Trethewey, 1966

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

"Theories of Time and Space" from Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

"Theories of Time and Space" from Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey, who has served as both the state poet laureate of Mississippi and the U.S. poet laureate, received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2006.

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poem
—after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619
She is the vessels 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
poem
What's left is footage: the hours before
       Camille, 1969—hurricane
              parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
       fronds blown back,

a woman's hair. Then after:
       the vacant lots,
       boats washed ashore, a swamp

where graves had been. I recall

how we huddled all night in our small