Portions of this interview were originally broadcast on July 16, 2007, Jan. 20, 2009 and Aug. 18, 2010.
This week, the Library of Congress announced that Natasha Trethewey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Native Guard, will be the next poet laureate of the United States.
Trethewey is the first poet laureate to hail from the South since Robert Penn Warren was appointed in 1986. The 46-year-old Mississippi native grew up the child of a racially mixed marriage in Gulfport, Miss. Her mother was later murdered by her estranged second husband, Trethewey's stepfather; these, along with the South and its singular ways, are recurring themes in her poetry.
Her first collection, Domestic Work, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize in 1999. In 2007, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Native Guard. The title refers to a regiment of African-American soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Trethewey is also the author of a 2010 memoir, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The book meditates on the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina that affected both the region and her own family.
At the time, she told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that she always found comfort in her poems.
"I think poetry's always a kind of faith. It is the kind that I have," Trethewey says. "It is what can offer solace and meaning but also ... allows me to understand these events."