My obsessions stay the same – historical memory and historical erasure. I am particularly interested in the Americas and how a history that is rooted in colonialism, the language and iconography of empire, disenfranchisement, the enslavement of peoples, and the way that people were sectioned off because of blood.
My parents had to go to Ohio to get married in 1965 because it was still illegal in Mississippi. My white father and black mother.
When you begin to think about the past, you realize how much of it is lost to us.
On a very personal level, I have fond memories of spending a lot of time in the Library of Congress working on my collection of poems ‘Native Guard.’ I was there over a summer doing research in the archives and then writing in the reading room at the Jefferson building.
I am interested in 18th century natural philosophy, science, particularly botany, the study of hybridity in plants and animals, which, of course, then allows me to consider the hybridity of language.
My name is Natasha Trethewey, and I was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966, exactly 100 years to the day that Mississippi celebrated the first Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1866.
I know that my tendency is to be linear, and I’m trying to find ways to subvert that. And so in ‘Bellocq’s Ophelia’ my device for subverting it was to tell the story and then to tell it again; it always circles back to this one moment, and it’s not linear, but it’s round in that way, and much of ‘Native Guard’ is like that.
I was always very aware of the nature of the place where I was growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi, how that place was shaping my experience of the world. I had to go to the Northeast for graduate school because I felt like I had to get far away from my South, be outside it, to understand it.
I’ve been telling my students, ‘Imitate, imitate.’ And they say, ‘Well, what if I plagiarize, or what if I’m not original? I want to be myself.’ And I always tell them, ‘Your self will shine through’… If you allow yourself to feel deeply and honestly, what you say won’t be like anyone else.
Poetry’s a thing that belongs to everyone.