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Natasha Trethewey, born on April 26, 1966, in Gulfport, Mississippi, is an American poet and academic. She served as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007 for her collection "Native Guard." Trethewey’s work is recognized for its focus on racial identity, historical memory, and the Southern experience in the United States.

Literary Background and Early Influences:

Trethewey studied English at the University of Georgia before earning an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Growing up as the daughter of a white father and a black mother at a time when such unions were still illegal in parts of the United States, Trethewey’s upbringing exposed her to the complexities of race, identity, and societal norms, all of which heavily influence her poetry.

Poetic Schools and Movements:

Trethewey's work doesn't neatly fit into a single school of poetry but is often analyzed within the broader framework of contemporary American poetry. It carries traces of confessional poetry, narrative poetry, and the tradition of American political poetry. Her engagement with form and adherence to structures like the sonnet hark back to more classical forms of poetic expression.

Phases and Themes in Poetic Oeuvre:

*Personal and Collective Memory: Her Pulitzer-winning collection "Native Guard" offers an amalgamation of personal memories intertwined with forgotten histories, especially those related to African American troops who served in the Civil War.

*Exploration of Racial and Gender Identity: In collections like "Bellocq's Ophelia" and "Thrall," Trethewey delves into the social constructs of race and gender, dissecting historical, personal, and cultural contexts.

*Place and Geography: The South, and Mississippi in particular, are not just backdrops but active elements in her poems. They shape identity, history, and even the texture of memory itself.


Natasha Trethewey's influence extends beyond the field of poetry into social and cultural realms. Her work has been instrumental in unearthing and highlighting neglected episodes of American history, particularly those that involve race. She has helped renew interest in documentary poetry and poems that serve as historical records or social commentary.


Apart from her tenure as U.S. Poet Laureate and her Pulitzer Prize, Trethewey has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Natasha Trethewey is a significant figure in American letters, offering a voice that is both deeply personal and universally resonant. Her work straddles multiple worlds: the North and the South, personal history and collective memory, and various racial and cultural identities. Through her exploration of these complex intersections, she has carved out a distinctive space in contemporary American poetry, influencing a generation of poets and readers grappling with the complexities of history, identity, and the American experience.

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