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Natasha Trethewey is named as the newest poet laureate

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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

(Read caption) Natasha Trethewey is one of the rare poet laureates who is relatively young and in midcareer, unlike her predecessors Philip Levine and W.S. Merwin, both in their 80s when appointed.

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Meet your new poet laureate, folks.

Natasha Trethewey, 46, an English and creative writing professor at Emory University in Atlanta, was named the 19th poet laureate Thursday. A Pulitzer Prize winner, she is the nation’s first poet laureate to hail from the South since the very first, Robert Penn Warren, was named by the Library of Congress in 1986, and the first African-American since Rita Dove in 1993.

“I’m still a little in disbelief,” Ms. Trethewey told the New York Times earlier this week.

Trethewey is known for exploring the histories of forgotten peoples – black Civil War soldiers, domestic workers like washerwomen, mixed-race prostitutes – in her rich verse, which flows from free verse to more traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle.

She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her poetry book, Native Guard, that reflects on the Louisiana Native Guard, a black Civil War regiment assigned to guard white Confederate soldiers held on Ship Island off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The Confederate soldiers were later memorialized on the island; the black Union soldiers were not.


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