Natasha Trethewey, the United States poet laureate, was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on April 26, 1966. She is the author of four poetry collections and a book of creative non-fiction. Her honors include the Pulitzer Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, she was appointed the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
Trethewey received a BA from the University of Georgia, an MA from Hollins College (now Hollins University), and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts. Her first book of poems, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove as winner of the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was published by Graywolf Press. Her subsequent poetry collections include Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002) and Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Her fourth book of poetry, Thrall, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin in fall 2012.
In 2010, Trethewey published Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press), a memoir that details the struggles of her family living in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies, and Chair, African American Studies, Yale University
Elizabeth Alexander was selected by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on January 20, 2009. She is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and American Sublime (2005), which was one of the American Library Association’s 25 Notable Books of the Year as well as one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Her collection of essays on African American literature, painting, and popular culture, The Black Interior, was published in 2004. Her verse play, “Diva Studies,” was produced at the Yale School of Drama in May 1996. Alexander has taught at the University of Chicago, where she won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, and Smith College, where she was Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence, first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and member of the founding editorial collective for the feminist journal Meridians. Professor Alexander is an inaugural recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She teaches courses on African American poetry, drama, and 20th century literature, as well as the survey introduction to African American Studies.
Co-sponsored by Beinecke Library and the Dept. of African American Studies