Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi... (wikipedia)
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.
People always want to be on the right side of history; it is a lot easier to say, 'What an atrocity that was' then it is to say, 'What an atrocity this is.'
Even though I am the daughter of a poet, and my stepmother is also a poet, growing up, I didn't think I could understand poetry; I didn't think that it had any relevance to my life, the feelings that I endured on a day-to-day basis, until I was introduced to the right poem.
My mother was murdered by my step-father, my brother's father, who was also named Joel, twenty-five years ago. Whatever sadness or burden I've been living with since then, my brother's also been living with, but he's lived with the added burden of having the exact same name as our mother's murderer.
The experience of poetry could bring my mother back to me. Poetry offers a different kind of solace - here on earth.
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.
It's so necessary to try and record the cultural memory of people. To set it down for generations to come. To better understand where we are headed. The problem is, a good portion of what we choose to remember is about willed forgetting. Which we all do, I believe, to protect ourselves from what is too difficult.
My own journey in becoming a poet began with memory - with the need to record and hold on to what was being lost. One of my earliest poems, 'Give and Take,' was about my Aunt Sugar, how I was losing her to her memory loss.
I think there is a poem out there for everyone, to be an entrance into the poetry and a relationship with it.
I think the biggest thing that I have to do is to remind people that poetry is there for us to turn to not only to remind us that we're not alone - for example, if we are grieving the loss of someone - but also to help us celebrate our joys. That's why so many people I know who've gotten married will have a poem read at the wedding.