Natasha Trethewey, New U.S. Poet Laureate

It always lifts my spirits when we announce a new national poet laureate. My sense is that Ms. Trethewey will take to the position like Robert Pinsky did when he launched the Favorite Poem Project. I love Trethewey’s line from “Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata“:

…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. …

Charles McGrath writes in The New York Times:

The Library of Congress is to announce Thursday that the next poet laureate is Natasha Trethewey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of three collections and a professor of creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta. Ms. Trethewey, 46, was born in Gulfport, Miss., and is the first Southerner to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren, the original laureate, and the first African-American since Rita Dove in 1993. “I’m still a little in disbelief,” Ms. Trethewey said on Monday.

Unlike the recent laureates W. S. Merwin and her immediate predecessor, Philip Levine, both in their 80s when appointed, Ms. Trethewey, who will officially take up her duties in September, is still in midcareer and not well-known outside poetry circles. Her work combines free verse with more traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle to explore memory and the racial legacy of America. Her fourth collection, “Thrall,” is scheduled to appear in the fall. She is also the author of a 2010 nonfiction book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

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