November is a good month for the arts at UGA. Not only is the university hosting a new arts festival, Spotlight on the Arts, but Georgia continues to enjoy the honor of being home to the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey. A graduate of UGA, Trethewey was named Poet Laureate in June. Her poetry explores, among other things, her childhood as the daughter of parents of different races in Mississippi in the '60s and ‘70s, as well as a modern history of racism in the South.
Trethewey’s visit is part of November’s Spotlight on the Arts Festival, a nine-day schedule of lectures, open classes and performances. However, she was originally invited to deliver the Charter Lecture, a commemoration of the university’s state charter of 1785 that made it the nation’s first public university. In the end, the provost invited Trethewey to speak and scheduled the Charter Lecture to coincide with the arts festival.
Sharron Hannon of the provost’s office calls Trethewey “one of the university’s most celebrated alumni in the arts.” Trethewey is a regular contributor to the university's prestigious literary journal, The Georgia Review. She began contributing in 2005, and her 2010 prose memoir, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was published by the University of Georgia Press. Just after she was named Poet Laureate, the The Georgia Review released its fall 2012 issue, which includes one of her poems. According to Review editor Stephen Corey, the timing was a happy coincidence: the product of Trethewey's relationship with the university and the publication.
"Over the past couple of years in particular, I've gotten her to keep us on her radar to now and then send us some things to look at,” Corey says. “She has a fondness for the University of Georgia and she has a fondness for our magazine; she likes it. So, I trust there's sort of a long-term relationship there." Corey goes on to praise her as “a big thinker, a broad thinker."
He adds, "More than a lot of poets, she found a couple of broad, thematic conversations that she wants to pursue, and she has been pursuing them for a while now."