Natasha Tretheway, U.S. Poet Laureate and keeper of memories

tretheweyNatasha Tretheway’s poems speak to all ages.

In this last week of February and of Black History Month I want to tell you about hearing Tretheway, the U.S. Poet Laureate, speak at the University of New Hampshire in a small Seacoast town at an event sponsored by the university’s Race and Ethnic Studies program.   Tretheway is biracial and told us that she accepted the position with the goal of being an activist poet laureate as she speaks and writes to explore racism from her perspective as a biracial poet. She makes the case for the ability of poetry and literature to speak for social justice. She read to us her poem, “Incident”. She said the poem wasn’t so much about klansmen in white coming to burn a cross on the lawn, but about the importance of keeping the memory of the incident. “We tell the story every year.” Here’s the final stanza: “When they were done, the men left quietly. No one came./Nothing really happened./ By morning all the flames had dimmed./ We tell the story every year.”

In Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, Trethewey writes, “When I read James Baldwin’s words, “This is the only real concern of the artist: to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art,” I felt he was speaking directly to me. I began writing then, because I had some things to make sense of…”

“Poetry asks that we look at a different angle,” she tells us.

Perhaps that is what we seek to highlight at The Pirate Tree, works that allow young readers to see their lives and others at a different angle.

Students and teachers can see a News Hour Video of Natasha Trethewey here, telling the story of her book Native Guard, her passion for history, and poems that hold the memory of a people.

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