She will assume the post in September and will divide her time between Decatur, Georgia and Washington, D.C. Her new collection, "Thrall," will be published in August.
Trethewey turned to poetry under tragic circumstances. In 1985, while she was a college freshman, Natasha's mother was murdered by her second husband. Her poems explore the intersection of memory and history, and help her to cope. "It's sort of like how, after the tragic events of September 11, so many people turned to poetry who had not been before," she says. "Reading it, writing it, perhaps more poems were written after that than in many, many years in American history. Poetry seemed like the only place we could turn to make sense of something so terrible, so frightening, and so devastating."
One of the responsibilities of the Poet Laureate is to promote poetry throughout the United States, and the newly appointed Trethewey believes that it is necessary to continue the promotion of poetry to members of the younger generation. "I think that if we can keep reminding younger people that poetry can continue to be pleasurable, [then] we might get a whole other generation that turns to poetry in ways that we haven't turned to in many, many years," she says.
The Laureate models her reading style after her father, who she says had a talent for reading his own poetry aloud. The first poem of her book, "Elegy", is dedicated to him. In it, she recalls the memory of fishing with her father. The evocative description of a day on the lake with a fishing pole in hand is an example of how thoroughly American Trethewey's poems are, not only in the sense of what she is writing about, but also how her own personal history influences her work.
I thought about the past — working
the hooks loose, the fish writhing
in my hands, each one slipping away
before I could let go. I can tell you now
that I tried to take it all in, record it
for an elegy I’d write — one day —
when the time came. Your daughter,
I was that ruthless.
"What's really truly American about them in many ways is the subject matter itself. Not only the concerns that I have with American history, but the way that I, as the writer of the poems, really embody a kind of American experience," the poet says. "That is, at once black and white, it's mixed, it's a kind of hybrid that is really woven into the thread of what this country has been for a very long time."