Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio’s show Fresh Air, interviewed poet Natasha Trethewey the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration.
During the interview Trethewey speaks as both a poet and as a biracial American. Terry Gross asks Trethewey what it means for her to live in a country with a biracial president, highlighting how 40 years ago interracial marriage was against the law in her native state of Mississippi. As I listened to the interview, it naturally came to mind the current struggles gay Americans are now living, and the discrimination they face in their desire to marry. Will it take another 40 years for all Americans to enjoy equal civil rights?
The interview is fourteen minutes long, but in the first three minutes Trethewey recites her poem, My Mother Dreams Another Country, from her collection Native Guard, for which she won the Pulitzer prize in 2007.
If you follow this link to Online NewsHour you can read and listen to Myth and Miscegenation, also from her collection Native Guard.
Natasha Trethewey teaches poetry in metro Atlanta, at Emory University. Maybe I’m biased toward a poet from my hometown, but I must say Natasha Trethewey would have made an excellent choice to write a poem for Barack Obama’s inauguration, not only because of her skill as a poet and a historian, but also because of her melodic voice. Which is not to slight Elizabeth Alexander, who I think did a wonderful job, considering the challenges she faced.
Edward Byrne, on his blog One Poet’s Notes, discusses the various responses to Alexander’s poem, and he includes the video of her performance, as well as her finished poem. There’s also a long banner of comments from different writers that might be of interest.