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AP Interview: Trethewey a ‘cheerleader’ for poetry

November 22, 2012 • Entertainment


In this Sept. 18, 2012 photograph taken at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey poses outside the president’s office prior to attending a luncheon in her honor. Trethewey hopes to develop a national discussion on poetry and its relevance to society and place. The Gulfport native also serves as Mississippi’s Poet Laureate. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

CLEVELAND, Miss. (AP) — Natasha Trethewey smashes stereotypes about poets. She’s not stuffy. Or shy. Or aloof.

As U.S. poet laureate, the 46-year-old describes herself as a “cheerleader” for the written word. She chooses the label deliberately, not only because she was head cheerleader at the University of Georgia in the late 1980s (Big hair! Big smile!), but also because, as a younger laureate, she wants to bring a sense of energy to the position.

“I want to ask ordinary people if poetry can mean something to them,” Trethewey told The Associated Press during an interview at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

“When kids look at broccoli they call it ‘little trees,’ because they see it not just for the word ‘broccoli.’ They see it for what it looks like, the image,” Trethewey said. “We, as adults, forget to think like that. We forget to think figuratively and have to be reminded.”

The librarian of Congress, James Billington, named Trethewey as the nation’s 19th poet laureate in June, and she began the one-year position in September. She has already given speeches and public readings in Washington, D.C., and in two states where she grew up, Mississippi and Georgia.

Many of her poems explore the interplay of race, memory and history.

Trethewey, whose late mother was black and whose father is white, was born in Gulfport, Miss., in 1966, when their interracial marriage was against the law in the state. (A 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case that originated in Virginia struck down such bans nationwide.) Her parents divorced when she was young.

Trethewey’s latest collection, “Thrall,” was released in late summer. Some poems explore her complex relationship with her father, Eric Trethewey, who’s also a poet. Many were inspired by 18th Century “casta” paintings by Spanish artists, which Login to read more

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