U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey was born in Mississippi, 100 years to the day after Confederate Memorial Day was established. Her mother was black, her father is white. Their marriage was against the law in the state. Her poetry explores the interplay of race and memory in her life and in American history. The past she mines is often unsettling: growing up biracial in the deep south of the 1960s, the lives of forgotten African-American Civil War soldiers, her mother’s murder and the legacy of slavery. Tretheway is the first poet laureate to move to Washington, D.C., and work out of the Library of Congress since the position was established in 1986. She’s the first southern Poet Laureate since Robert Penn Warren. And she’s the first person to serve simultaneously as the poet laureate of a state –- Mississippi –- and the nation. In 2007, she received a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection, “Native Guard.” Last year, she published a follow-up titled, “Thrall.” She joins Diane to talk about the role of poetry in our everyday lives.


  • Natasha Trethewey U.S. Poet Laureate and Mississippi Poet Laureate, professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. "Native Guard," her third collection of poetry, received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection is "Thrall."

Read An Excerpt

Excerpt from “Thrall: Poems” by Natasha Trethewey. Poems include “Help, 1968,” “Elegy for My Father,” and “Enlightenment.” Copyright 2012 by Natasha Trethewey. Reprinted here by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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