When she was named the 19th United States Poet Laureate in June, 2012, Natasha Trethewey was among the youngest poets appointed to the post, the first African American since Rita Dove, and the first Southerner since Robert Penn Warren held the office in the 1980s. Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, she is the author of four collections of poetry, including Native Guard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and Thrall, her latest volume of verse. She has also published Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has a memoir coming out this year.
Librarian of Congress James Billington has written that Trethewey’s poems “dig beneath the surface of history—personal and communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles we all face.” Native Guard, for example, draws its title from an unsung regiment of African American soldiers who were commissioned to watch over Confederate prisoners of war, while some of the poems in Thrall explore mixed-race marriage from both cultural and personal perspectives. Among Trethewey’s many other honors are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Cave Canem Prize for her first collection, Domestic Work. Trethewey holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.