Delta State University will be awarding its sixth honorary degree in school history to 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey at the 2007 Fall Commencement service, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. inside Walter Sillers Coliseum.
It was announced earlier this semester during Trethewey’s initial visit to the Delta State campus that the Mississippi native would be recognized with an honorary degree from the institution. She had originally visited in October for a public reading and master class with students.
“Ms. Trethewey is an accomplished poet who has achieved international recognition. Her Mississippi heritage makes all of us proud. We’re pleased that she will accept an honorary doctoral degree,” Delta State President Dr. John M. Hilpert offered. “Her success is a wonderful story for our students and graduates to hear.”
This will be the first honorary degree of her career.
Her first poetry collection, “Domestic Work” (Graywolf Press, 2000), won the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize (selected by Rita Dove), a 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry.
Her follow-up collection, “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (Graywolf, 2002) received the 2003 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, was a finalist for both the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin and Lenore Marshall prizes and was named a 2003 Notable Book by the American Library Association.
In addition to the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, her most recent collection, “Native Guard” (Houghton Mifflin 2006) also won the 2007 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize.
Trethewey has a bachelor’s in English from the University of Georgia, a master’s in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University and a master’s degree in poetry from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
She has taught at Auburn University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University where she was the 2005-2006 Lehman Brady Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies.
Trethewey is currently the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair of Poetry at Emory University in Atlanta. She will receive the 2008 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission on Feb. 8, 2008.