Natasha Trethewey began to write poems when she was a freshman in college. The young woman was faced with an unspeakable tragedy, as her mother was murdered by the step father she once feared.
“I started writing poems as a response to that great loss, much the way that people responded, for example, after 9/11,” she told The Associated Press. “People who never had written poems or turned much to poetry turned to it at that moment because it seems like the only thing that can speak the unspeakable.”
Trethewey is now a creative writing professor at Emory University and has been named the 19th US poet laureate.
Trethewey has won the Pulitzer Prize and is the first laureate from the south since 1986. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her book of poems, “Native Guard.”
James Billington of the Library of Congress, who chose Trethewey, said this:
“She’s taking us into history that was never written,” he said. “She takes the greatest human tragedy in American history — the Civil War, 650,000 people killed, the most destructive war of human life for a century — and she takes us inside without preaching.”
Tretheway is among the youngest laureates. Her father, Eric Trethewey, is a poet and college professor as well.
“On a dare that first semester, a poet friend of mine got me to write a poem. I did it because I thought I would prove that I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It was at that moment that something really clicked.”