An Evening with Our New Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey | Mixed Race Studies | Steven F. Riley

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“In her series of moving poems about casta paintings, Ms. Trethewey reveals her ability to not only compel the reader to contemplate the lives of the subjects of the paintings, but also to bring the subjects of the paintings to life as in her poem “Taxonomy: De Español y de India Produce Mestiso” (Which describes a series of casta paintings by Juan Rodríguez Juárez, c. 1715).” -Steven F. Riley

The canvas is leaden sky
behind them, heavy
with words, gold letters inscribing
an equation of blood—…

…If the father, his hand
on her skull, divines—
as the physiognomist does—
the mysteries

of her character, discursive,

legible on her light flesh,
in the soft curl of her hair,
we cannot know it: so gentle

the eye he turns toward her.
The mother, glancing
sideways toward him—
the scarf on her head

white as his face,
his powdered wig—gestures
with one hand a shape
like the letter C. See,

she seems to say,
what we have made…

-Natasha Trethewey

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Natasha Trethewey (Black/White) [American] …

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Natasha Trethewey (Black/White) [American]


Known as: Newly Appointed United States Poet Laureate (Current Poet Laureate of Mississippi; 2007 Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for “Native Guard”; Holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University; Inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2011)


Works: “Native Guard”, “Domestic Work”, “Bellocq’s Ophelia”, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast”

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