Former U.S. Poet Laureate to visit Southern Miss

A major voice in contemporary poetry and acclaimed Mississippi-born author Natasha Trethewey, former Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014) and the state of Mississippi (2012-2016), is set to visit Southern Miss as part of the Visiting Writers Series and Mississippi’s Bicentennial Celebration.

The two-day visit will involve a reading and a moderated conversation about her craft and creative process. The reading will be held at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 1 at Thad Cochran Center Ballroom I, and the craft discussion will be held from 12-1 p.m. Nov. 2 in Room No. 202 of the Liberal Arts Building. The event is free and open to the public.

Trethewey, highly-esteemed locally, nationally and internationally known speaker, is one of America’s premier poets. She is a former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the U.S. and the state of Mississippi, author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning poetry book Native Guard (2006), and a professor at Northwestern University. She was the first writer with simultaneous appointments at the state and national levels, serving as an ambassador and welcoming the public to fall in love with the art of poetry. During her laureateship, a major endeavor included the PBS NewsHour series, “Where Poetry Lives,” which covered social issues by traveling to meet with people from diverse backgrounds.

Born in Gulfport, Trethewey speaks to some of the most pressing social realities, giving voice to histories that are untold or collectively forgotten; her poetry connects communities through the shared experience of language, encouraging all of us to be historically conscious by challenging notions about the world and striving for knowledge and often uncomfortable truths.

Natasha Trethewey's Work
Trethewey’s work explores central themes of political, social, or moral importance, as she shares stories of historical struggles and burdens people faced in the South during the civil rights movement. Her collections are Domestic Work (2000), winner of the Cave Canem Prize, which began as Trethewey's homage to her maternal grandmother's lifelong labors and served as a portrait of a generation as it explored the lives and jobs of working-class people; Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), inspired by early 20th-Century photos by E.J. Bellocq of prostitutes in the red-light district of New Orleans, was based on her research of the lives of the women in the district, many of whom were mixed-race; the Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard (2006), which includes a sonnet sequence in the voice of a black soldier fighting in the Civil War, and contains elegies to her mother who died while Trethewey was in college; her non-fiction work, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010); and the poetry collection Thrall (2012), which examines historical representations of mixed-race families, and Trethewey’s troubled relationship with her father, through a series of poems based on 18th-century paintings.

Trethewey’s many honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute, where she was a Bunting fellow. Other honors bestowed include the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and being named the 2008 Georgia Woman of the Year. Her poems have appeared in acclaimed journals and anthologies including The University of Southern Mississippi's very own scholarly journal, The Southern Quarterly.

 “Trethewey’s awards, four poetry collections, and her ties to the state make her an exciting artist to bring to Southern Miss in celebration of the bicentennial,” stated Dr. Angela Ball, professor of English and Director of the Center for Writers.

“The highly anticipated visit will not only educate and inspire us but will reach, through art, diverse university disciplines,” added Dr. Ball.

The Visiting Writers Series features authors of fiction and poetry and is an opportunity for students and the Hattiesburg community to enjoy varied writing styles and diverse voices. Visiting writers have included poets Kevin Young, Don Bogen, Alex Lemon, Caki Wilkinson, Adam Vines, Catherine Pierce, Farrah Field, Allan Peterson, and L. Lamar Wilson, as well as fiction writers Justin Torres, Lauren Groff, Mary Miller, Michael Farris Smith, Peter Orner, Ben Lerner, and many more.

To learn more about the Visiting Writers Series and Natasha Trethewey, visit The event is made possible in part-by a generous grant from Partners for the Arts.