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Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey, a VQR contributing editor, served two terms as the nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014). She is the author of five collections of poetry, Monument (HMH, 2018), which was longlisted for the National Book Award; Thrall (HMH, 2012); Native Guard (Mariner, 2007), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002); and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000), which was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Trethewey is also the author of the memoir Memorial Drive (Ecco, 2020). She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. At Northwestern University she is a Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.



Spring 2012 | Poetry

In the portrait of Jefferson that hangs
at Monticello, he is rendered two-toned:
his forehead white with illumination—


Fall 2009 | Criticism

He has the surname that suggests
a contested kinship: Jefferson—


Fall 2009 | Criticism

Somewhere in the post-Katrina wreckage and disarray of my grandmother’s house, there is a photograph of my brother Joe and me, our arms around each other’s shoulders. We are at a long-gone nightclub in Gulfport, the Terrace Lounge, standing before the photographer’s airbrushed scrim—a border of dice and playing cards around us. Just above our heads the words HIGH ROLLERS, in cursive, embellished—if I am remembering this right—with tiny starbursts. 


Fall 2009 | Criticism

Here is North Gulfport—
its liquor stores and car washes,


Fall 2009 | Criticism

This week they are painting
the North Gulfport water tower.


Fall 2009 | Criticism

At first, there was nothing to do but watch.
For days, before the trucks arrived, before the work
of clean-up, my brother sat on the stoop and watched.


Fall 2009 | Criticism

The house is in need of repair, but is—
for now, she says—still hers. After the storm,
she laid hands on what she could reclaim:


Fall 2009 | Criticism

On Saturday, when I come to see
my brother, they call him, over loudspeaker,
to the tower—a small guardroom

Prodigal I

Fall 2009 | Poetry

Once, I was a daughter of this place:
daughter of Gwen, granddaughter
of Leretta, great of Eugenia McGee.

Prodigal II

Fall 2009 | Criticism

I wanted to say I have come home
to bear witness, to read the sign
emblazoned on the church marquee—


Fall 2009 | Poetry

I thought that when I saw my brother
walking through the gates of the prison,
he would look like a man entering his life. 


Summer 2005 | Poetry

  Vicksburg, Mississippi Here, the Mississippi carved     its mud-dark path, a graveyard for skeletons of sunken riverboats.     Here, the river changed its course, turning away from the city    &n [...]

On Whitman, Civil War Memory, and My South

Spring 2005 | Essays

  O magnet-South! O glistening perfumed South! my South!O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love! good and evil! O all dear to me! — Walt Whitman   I. The New SouthA few years ago I was interviewed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitu [...]


Spring 2004 | Poetry

We tell the story every year—
how we peered from the windows, shades drawn—
though nothing really happened,
the charred grass now green again.