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Natasha Trethewey’s Bringing Poetry To The Masses

Joel Benjamin

A 2009 National Endowment for the Arts study found that only 8 percent of adults read any poetry in the previous year.  Children do better. The Poetry Foundation discovered that the main reasons adults take a pass is loss of interest, lack of time, lack of access, and the perception that poetry is difficult and irrelevant.

U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey, recently appointed to her second term, is working to welcome more adults to the party.

“We can’t know what poem is going to be the poem that brings someone to poetry, comforts them in times of grief, tragedy, and loss, or celebrates with them in times of joy and triumph,” she told the Los Angeles Review of Books last year. “But it is our job — as poets, as teachers, as the poet laureate — to try to bring people to a wide variety of poems so they might find that one among the many.”

During her first year as poet laureate, Trethewey relocated from Emory University in Atlanta to Washington D.C., where she held weekly office hours at the Library of Congress, an nontraditional move for the role. This year, she will film a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series, during which she will travel the country to examine how poetry plays out in the lives of everyday Americans.

Trethewey is also writing a memoir, currently untitled, recounting her experiences as a biracial child in the 1970s. It will be released in 2014. Readers who are impatient can pick up a copy of “Thrall,” or her Pulitzer-winning 2007 collection, “Native Guard.”

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