Natasha Trethewey has reacted humbly to her selection as the 19th Poet Laureate for the U.S. Library of Congress, even though she’s unintentionally broken the mold. At 46, she’s the youngest U.S. Poet Laureate and, as a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, she’s only the second one from the South. Poetry often has been considered the ugly stepchild of the literary world; no one wants to deal with it unless it’s absolutely necessary. But, Trethewey approaches the craft “without preaching,” said James Billington, the Librarian of Congress.
Trethewey has attained some significant accomplishments, notably receiving the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection “Native Guard.” She is the author of two prior poetry collections, “Domestic Work,” (2000) and “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (2002), and the 2010 nonfiction book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” Another collection of poetry, “Thrall,” is set to be published later this year.
“I’m still a little in disbelief,” Trethewey told the New York Times this week, before her selection had been publicly announced.
Trethewey discovered her poetic muse after a brutal personal tragedy. While still a college alpahmore, her stepfather killed her mother. Trethewey started writing poems “as a response to that great loss.”
Trethewey, who is currently Mississippi’s poet laureate, will serve the term as U.S. poet laureate concurrently. She has elected to live and work in Washington from January through May of 2013, becoming the first U.S. poet laureate to choose to work in the Poets Room at the Library of Congress during her term.