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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet talks writing, history


Photo by Jeff Dundas

Natasha Trethewey takes questions and discusses her poetic interests Monday. 


Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize winner and United States Poet Laureate, led a Q&A session Tuesday in preparation for her poetry reading Wednesday.
Trethewey took questions from students, fans, members and directors of the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, speaking about her poetic interests, the source of her inspiration and ways she deals with the concept of race.
“Poems allow us to have some of the very difficult conversations that we may not be able to have with each other in ordinary speech,” Trethewey said. “There’s something that happens in a poem that breaks [differences] down and I think it’s the intimacy of the voice speaking across the distance to a willing listener. It has a way of touching us.”
Trethewey said she always loved grammar in school and focused on the way words sounded out loud as opposed to just on a page.
“When writing, I’m always thinking about the rhythm and the cadences,” Trethewey said. “I can spend immeasurable amounts of time just working on a single sentence.”
Marissa Gonzalez, international studies and history sophomore, attended the event and said she enjoyed that Trethewey did not just speak about poetic and literary aspects of her writing.
“I thought that it was really interesting to hear the way that she specifically spoke about history, because personally, [I didn’t] expect that from a writer,” Gonzalez said. “I like how she talked about her own personal experiences and how they shaped how she wrote about the past.”
Trethewey’s inspiration comes from her maternal grandmother who was raised in the South under Jim Crow laws. Trethewey said that as her grandmother got older and those in her generation started to pass away, she began writing poems about her grandmother’s jobs.
“I wanted to keep alive something of the culture of that place and time,” Trethewey said. “I started writing poems about the various jobs she had. It seemed to me a way of telling a story about life as well as a story of national history would be through labor, the jobs that people had.”
Her most recent collection is entitled “Thrall” and brings in the theme of racism. Trethewey said that after having many people see some of her first poems with themes of race, she decided to show the public what real race writing was.
“Race, for all of us, is something woven into our history,” Trethewey said. “In ‘Thrall,’ I’m trying to deal with — to approach head on — ideas about difference, racial difference, deeply ingrained and unexamined.”
Lisa Salinas of Houston came to the event as both a poet and fan of Trethewey.
“I like to write a lot of similar topics [as Trethewey], so that’s why I was really drawn to her poems,” Salinas said.

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