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Former poet laureate to visit as part of Hall Center series

Friday, February 20, 2015

LAWRENCE — Notable poet Natasha Trethewey will speak and read from her works at 7:30 p.m. March 3 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. Her presentation, "Poetry and History: An Evening with U.S. Poet Laureate (2012-2014) Natasha Trethewey,” is part of the Hall Center for the Humanities' 2014-2015 Humanities Lecture Series. The event is free and open to the public.

Trethewey will also participate in an informal conversation session the next morning. “A Conversation with Natasha Trethewey” will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 4, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Audience members are invited to pose questions to Trethewey and advance topics that may not have been touched upon in the previous night’s session. This event is also free and open to the public.

Her poetry explores themes of race, Southern identity, families, gender and class, focusing often on African-American workers in the Deep South and along the Gulf Coast. Librarian of Congress James Billington wrote, “Her poems dig beneath the surface of history — personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago — to explore the human struggles that we all face.”

Trethewey is the author of "Thrall" (2012), which examines historical representations of mixed-race families; "Native Guard" (Houghton Mifflin), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and which contains elegies to her mother and a sonnet sequence in the voice of a black Civil War soldier; "Bellocq's Ophelia" (Graywolf, 2002), which was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association; and "Domestic Work" (Graywolf, 2000), which explores the lives and jobs of working-class black women and men in the South. She is also the author of "Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast" (University of Georgia Press). 

In her second term as poet laureate, Trethewey's signature project was a feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series known as "Where Poetry Lives." In this program, Trethewey traveled with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown to various cities across the United States in order to explore societal issues through a link to poetry, literature and Trethewey's own personal experiences.

Trethewey's many honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute, where she was a Bunting Fellow. She has held appointments at Duke University as the Lehman Brady Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Yale University, where she was the James Weldon Johnson Fellow in African American Studies at the Beinecke Library.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Stephen Greenblatt, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Mary Oliver. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule. For information on the series, visit the Hall Center website.

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