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New United States Poet Laureate and Mississippi Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will give her first Mississippi reading as the nation’s 19th Poet Laureate at Delta State University on Tuesday, September 18th at 7 p.m.
The reading will serve as the Mississippi launch for her new book of poetry “Thrall.” “Thrall” is her poetic follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize winning book “Native Guard.” “Thrall” explores many themes of Trethewey’s earlier works. This time, however, she moves beyond the Deep South to meditate on the complicated legacy of colonialism in the Americas; the interaction between memory, historical amnesia, and erasure; and the complex relationship she has with her father.
Delta State University was the first university to give her an honorary doctorate, awarded by Dr. John Hilpert at the 2007 Fall Commencement. Dr. Trethewey is also the Mississippi Poet Laureate and a 2008 winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Assistant Professor of English Don Allan Mitchell has been instrumental in helping his friend obtain all three Mississippi awards. “We are so very fortunate to have a supporter of Delta State University like Natasha Trethewey. She understands that memory has a special resonance in Mississippi and in the Delta, and I have made it a personal mission of mine to make sure she is properly honored in her home state. Mississippi was on the wrong side of history when we made a crime of her interracial birth in 1966; I want to make sure that we are on the right side of history in 2012 by honoring Mississippi’s greatest contribution to American poetry,” stated Mitchell.
Trethewey will officially assume her duties as United States Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress on Thursday, September 13th. She is the first Southerner to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren of Tennessee and Kentucky in 1986, and the first African American since Rita Dove in 1993.
The event is free and will be held in Studio A of the Delta Music Institute, located in the old Whitfield Gymnasium on campus, which has also hosted historic speeches by fellow Pulitzer Prize winners William Faulkner and Dean Acheson. To ensure that all groups are accommodated, notification of attendance is requested by calling 662.846.4626.
The reading is hosted by the Division of Languages and Literature and the Delta State University Diversity Committee. Generous support is also provided by the Delta Music Institute, The Delta State University Foundation, and the Bologna Performing Arts Center.
“I am encouraging some friendly competition between Trethewey’s adopted home town of Atlanta, Georgia, and her home state of Mississippi. She’ll be keynoting the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival on August 31rst. She easily will fill the 800-seat venue at Emory University where she will give that speech. Let’s use September 18th as a chance to show America how much Mississippi and Delta State University support both Dr. Trethewey and great American authors. Let’s show our Delta hospitality by welcoming her with open arms on September 18th,” said Assistant Professor of English Georgene Clark, who also chairs Delta State University’s Diversity Committee.
“I reread ‘Native Guard’ at least once a year. Many of the faculty in the Division of Languages and Literature assign it to our students. Every time I read it, I find another intricate brush stroke on its rich canvas. A few years back, she shared with me the thumbnail sketch of what would become ‘Thrall,’ and I knew I was going to have to expand my syllabus,” Mitchell added.
For more information, contact Don Allan Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org