Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and professor of English at Emory University, will read this Thursday, Oct. 29, at Posana Café (1 Biltmore Ave.) starting at 8 p.m. The event, which is sponsored by the Flood Gallery Poetry Reading Series, will also feature Black Mountain-based poet Katherine Soniat.
The author of three poetry collections, Trethewey was awarded a Pulitzer for her most recent one, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). She was born in Gulfport, Miss., in 1966, into a house of poets: Her father was the author of three collections of poems and her stepmother was a poet as well.
In addition to the Pulitzer, Tretheway won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, an annual award for the best first collection of poems submitted by an African-American poet. Her first poetry collection, Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000), centered on the often-mundane work of primarily black men and women in the Jim Crow South.
Native Guard focuses on the mistreatment and murder of the Louisiana Native Guards — African-American Union soldiers during the Civil War, and the death of her own mother, who was killed by her mother’s second husband. The two themes are woven together as Trethewey acts as the guard of her own history and her mother’s legacy.
In one poem, a pantoum, Trethewey recalls her family waking up to a burning cross on their lawn. In the closing poem, Trethewey’s mixed feelings about her home state are clear: Although Mississippi has harmed her and mistreated her, it is home. Here are the final lines of the last poem in the book:
Where the roads, buildings, and monuments
are named to honor the Confederacy,
where that old flag still hangs, I return
to Mississippi, state that made a crime
of me — mulatto, half-breed — native
in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.
— Gabe Chess, news intern