On March 3, poet and 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey came to Bloomsburg’s campus to answer questions and comment on her success, as well as her personal struggles as a writer.
Born March 3, 1966 in Mississippi, Trethewey was born, according to the state, to an illegally married couple, her father being white and her mother being black. Children, like Trethewey, who were half black and half white were considered a mistake to the word, but Trethewey managed to overcome many hardships to grow into the strong, independent woman she is today. At a young age, Trethewey’s parents filed for divorce. The majority of her upbringing, she was raised by her mother while seeing her father during the summer months. Trethewey’s close bond with her mother was short lived when her mother passed away while she was attending college. Her book of poetry, Native Guard, strongly reflects the pain and sorrow she went through as she dealt with the loss of her mother. Such poems as Graveyard Blues, Myth and Genus Narcissus, are such examples in the beginning of the text that illustrate the strong images of mourning and death that haunt her memory of her deceased mother.
During the question and answer segment, questions such as how she battles with writer’s block and how she chose poetry instead of prose were shared with an eager audience. Whenever Trethewey stumbles over what to write she went on to say that she “loves looking up words in a dictionary and discovering new words in the process.” When she was very little, her father wold have her write poetry during long car rides, keeping her from being bored and to explore the world of words. She went on to say that at first it was a difficult process, but in time, she quickly fell in love with words and sentence structures. During Graduate School, she viewed herself as a horrible poetry writer, focusing her craft towards prose writing. Trethewey came to the realization that her true talent was in poetry when a friend of hers challenged her to write a poem. Although Tetheway felt she was horrible at it, her friend loved her work and from that point on, Trethewey continued her craft of writing poetry.
When reading her work, some major themes a reader will encounter include childhood, history, and the deep south throughout the 60’s, as well as reflecting upon 18th Century paintings. Many from Spain and the Renaissance period are of high value to her, tying everything into her own personal history and upbringing.
At 7:30, Tretheway returned to read out loud some of her more recent works. During the question and answer session, someone commented that many of her words seemed to hold more than one symbolic meaning and she, Trethewey, confirmed this to be true. There are poets out there who provide distinct, concrete images, but as a student who read Native Guard for class, and then hearing her read her work out loud, it was easy to understand this to be true; her words do in fact hold multiple meanings and references to various images from the past.
While some poets have this mechanic and monotone voice when reading poetry, Trethewey managed to speak with an elegance and voice that completely engaged all who attending the reading. She made the overall experience one that was truly worth attending and her presence was one that was very well received.