Natasha Trethewey was named United States Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress on June 7, 2012. She is the first African American to be named Poet Laureate since Rita Dove in 1993, reported the New York Times.
Trethewey, 46, is a professor of creative writing at Emory University in Decatur, Ga., where she lives with her husband, Brett Gadsden. A reception to honor Trethewey was held in Decatur on June 8, 2012 in the town’s historic square.
She has written three collections of poetry and won the Putlizer Prize in 2007 for Native Guard. The collection was named for a regiment of black soldiers in the Civil War.
“Her poems dig beneath the surface of history — personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago — to explore the human struggles that we all face,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement about her work.
Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Miss., her late mother was black and her father is white. When her parents got married, interracial marriage was still considered a crime in Mississippi. Her family history, including her mother’s murder when Trethewey was 19, is among her inspirations for her poems.
Trethewey’s duties as Poet Laureate will begin in the fall, as she opens the Library of Congress’s annual literary season with a reading of her work on Sept. 13. She will live in Washington, D.C., from January through June of 2013, working in the Poets Room of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress.
The Poet Laureate, a position that was established in 1986, serves a one-year term and is chosen on poetic merit alone. Past Poet Laureates have worked on projects to increase the audience for poetry. For more information, visit the Library of Congress website. –rachael mason