Essay Tretheway

Essay Tretheway-56
There, Ophelia’s body itself is collateral because of, not in spite of, skin color. Other “girls,” Ophelia writes, “even speak of a child / they left behind” (13).“And so, last night / I was auctioned as a newcomer / to the house,” she writes gently to her former teacher Miss Constance Wright, “—as yet untouched, though / Countess knows well the thing from which / I’ve run” (13). Or is it Mississippi in general from which she has escaped?In , Trethewey writes to her poet father whom she charges as a colonialist comparable to the Spaniards’ enslaving of and mating with the Indian and Black Americans.

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She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

In 2013 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017 she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.

Whether drawing with artfully chosen words arranged in “elegant envelopes” of form to present Bellocq’s photographs of the madams of New Orlean’s Storyville district, to perform a reenactment of a famous portrait of the twentieth-century southern Fugitive poets, or to dissect the taxonomies of the eighteenth century Mexican Casta paintings, Trethewey paints her own clear pictures for her readers and then transitions smoothly into the abstract conundrums of race, gender, and colonialism of the past and present.

She is the daughter of a white Canadian father who is a poet and an African American mother from Mississippi who is murdered by Trethewey’s step-father.

Poète de l’ekphrasis, Natasha Trethewey (prix Pulitzer et Poète Lauréat 2012) est l’une des grandes voix de la poésie américaine contemporaine. She writes formal poems, arranging her artfully chosen words into “elegant envelopes,” as she calls her sonnets, villanelles, ghazals, and pantoums. Another poem in that collection performs a reenactment of a famous portrait of the southern Fugitive poets. Trethewey paints her own clear pictures for her readers and then transitions smoothly into the abstract conundrums of America’s history — race, gender, and colonialism.

Dans une langue choisie et arrangée avec soin dans « d’élégantes enveloppes » formelles, elle présente les tenancières des maisons closes de la Nouvelle-Orléans photographiées par Bellocq, revisite le célèbre portrait des Fugitifs (mouvement poétique fondé dans le sud des États-Unis dans les années 1920) ou encore dissèque la taxonomie des portraits de castes à Mexico, au (2012) composent un triptyque où le fil autobiographique croise la trame de l’Histoire des États-Unis. She says, “I want the largest possible audience of people to be welcomed into my poems and to use the most important muscle human beings have, which is the muscle of empathy” (“Southern” 160).

With no opportunities in Mississippi, but a sound education, Ophelia goes to New Orleans to seek work.

Finding none, being “too hungry / to reason” (12) and out of money, Ophelia goes to Countess P’s brothel in the Storyville, the legalized prostitution district of New Orleans from 1897-1917, the neighborhood named for Sidney Story, the alderman who authored the legislation so as to contain prostitution.

The three poems that follow—“Providence,” “Liturgy,” and Believer”—are taken from her book-length meditation on the impact of the 2005 storm.

Trethewey was educated at the University of Georgia, Hollins University, and the University of Massachusetts.


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