Poet Laureate of the United States
The poems of Natasha Trethewey’s Congregation are the result of Hurricane Katrina and the earlier hurricane, Camille, and their terrible impacts on those who live in the hard-hit communities along the Gulf Coast, including her family. They are love letters, praise songs, dirges, invocations, and benedictions; they are also homages to the everyday people who “gather our / food, and those who grow it clean it, cook it / who bring it to our tables.” The opening poem, “Invocation,” asks for the grace needed to tell their story and to thank God for the ability to remember them.
Bless the travellers who gather
our food, and those who grow it, clean it,
who bring it to our tables. Bless the laborers
whose faces we do not see – like the girl
my grandmother was, walking the rails home:
bless us that we remember.
Washington Independent Review of Books:
“When we read these poems we know what Trethewey beliieves — we see the blood in her veins. Next, we know how principled poetry can emerge from a darker world; and then, we see, when all around us crumbles, the complexity of the human spirit –and consequences of suffering that can be redeemed. When the poet liberates herself, she liberates others; and that is why we call writing a moral life. Trethewey reflects reality with lyrical force. She’s not afraid to live; she’s not afraid to carry the freight of knowledge; she creates carefully from the boundaries of loss and turns it to poetry. Out of cultural disorder comes Congregation, a celebration, so get your God on. Poetry is holy work.”
Congregation is the recipient of the 2014 Award for Poetry by The William Meredith Foundation.
Natasha Trethewey is the author of Thrall (2012), Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin), Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000). She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press). She has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize and has had fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, she was appointed the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi and in 2013, Poet Laureate of the U.S. Throughout 2013, she joined Jeffrey Brown in a series of on-location broadcast reports for the PBS News Hour exploring issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry. She is presently the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.