Thursday, June 7, 2012

Natasha Trethewey, Emory University Writing Professor, Named 19th U.S. Poet Laureate

Natasha Trethewey is a Pulitzer-prize winning poet, who began writing poetry in her teens after the murder of her mother by her step-father. Librarian of Congress James Billington chose Trethewey after hearing her read at the National Book Festival. Her work explores forgotten history and the many human tragedies of the Civil War. She is among the youngest laureates, and will reside in Washington and work in the Poetry Room at Library of Congress.

Carnegie-Stout Public Library has one of her books, Native Guard (2006)--winner of the Pulitzer prize in poetry in 2007. The collection follows the “Native Guard,” one of the first black regiments mustered into service in the Civil War. 

Other books and essays by the Trethewey will soon be on the shelves: Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2012); Domestic Work (2000); and Bellocq’s Ophelia: Poems (2012). Her term begins this September.

Past poet laureates have included W. S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, and Robert Penn Warren. The library has books by these poets in the second-floor nonfiction collection, many found under the Dewey classification of 811.
Below is one poem to read by the new Laureate, from the website
~Mirdza Erika Berzins, librarian

Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata
By Natasha Trethewey
              —after the painting by Diego Velazquez, 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 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.
She's the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.

La Mulata by Diego Velazquez


  1. This poet has captured the painting in an exquisitely beautiful way.

  2. Yes, I agree. It is moving. Thanks, Cinda! Mirdza