Saturday, July 7, 2012

Speaking the Unspeakable

We have a new poet laureate named by the Library of Congress on June 6th. Natasha Tretheway is a young (46) writing professor from Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. She has written three volumes of poetry including “Native Guard” which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. Her fourth volume “Thrall” will be published in September 2012, the
month she will begin her tenure as our poet laureate. She will live in Washington and work directly in the Library’s poetry room from January through May 2013.

She is a versatile poet, using both traditional forms (sonnets and villanelles) and free verse to express many historical and cultural themes. As the daughter of a mixed-race marriage, that experience is an important thread found in her writing.

The catalyst for expressing herself in poetry seems to be a horrific event she experienced when only nineteen years old. Her mother was murdered by her estranged second husband. Natasha says, “I turned to poetry to make sense of what happened.” Her book “Native Guard” contains several elegies to her mother.

The poet in her own words…
“I started writing poems as a response to that great loss much the way people responded for example after 9/11. People who never had written poems or turned much to poetry turned to it at that moment because it seems like the only thing that can speak the unspeakable.”