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June 8, 2012

Natasha Trethewey Named U.S. Poet Laureate

Watch New Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey Explores Human Struggles on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Each year, the U.S. Library of Congress names a new Poet Laureate – a person who is recognized and distinguished for that year as the top poet in the country. This year’s Poet Laureate is Natasha Trethewey, a native Mississippian who grew up the daughter of biracial parents.

A year after Hurricane Katrina hit the area where she grew up, Trethewey reflected on her hometown and her ties to Mississippi. She also shared her interest in the Louisiana Native Guards, the first official regiment of African-American soldiers in the Civil War’s Union army. Trethewey wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning poem about them and the way they were forgotten or overlooked for much of history.


“I used to come out here every Fourth of July as a child to picnic and to swim on the island, to tour the fort and wander through it. And all of that time, I never knew anything about the presence of black soldiers on the island. And so, for me, this was a way of trying to tell another history, a lost or a forgotten or a little-known history about these black soldiers who played an important part in American history.” – Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate

“When I was born here in Gulfport in 1966, my parents’ interracial marriage was still illegal. And it was very hard to drive around town with my parents, to be out in public with my parents.” – Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate

Warm Up Questions

1. What is poetry?

2. What do you imagine the town of Gulfport, Mississippi was like in 1966?

3. What is the Library of Congress?

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think the Library of Congress names a Poet Laureate every year?

2. Do you have a favorite poet? Why is he or she your favorite?

3. If you were to choose a subject from your childhood to write a poem about, what would you choose? Why?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

NewsHour Poetry Series

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