MoAD & Litquake present | Memorial Drive: Natasha Trethewey in conversation with Tonya Foster

October 21, 2020 @ 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm
Zoom Room
FREE, $5-10 suggested donation

“Haunting, powerful, and painfully stunning…Trethewey writes the unimaginable truth with a clear-eyed courage that proves, once again, that she’s one of the nation’s best writers.” —Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things and NBCC award-winner The Carrying

At age 19, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.
The new memoir Memorial Drive, by the Pulitzer Prize–winning U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, moves through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, plumbing her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985. An instant New York Times bestseller, Memorial Driveis a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence, but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. In conversation with poet and professor Tonya M. Foster. FREE, $5-10 suggested donation

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Pulitzer Prize-winner Natasha Trethewey served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014). In his citation, 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 was the first Southerner to receive the honor since Robert Penn Warren, in 1986, and the first African-American since Rita Dove, in 1993.

In addition to the new memoir Memorial Drive (2020), Trethewey is the author of Monument (2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, a retrospective drawing together verse that delineates the stories of working class African American women, a mixed-race prostitute, one of the first black Civil War regiments, mestizo and mulatto figures in Casta paintings, Gulf coast victims of Katrina; Thrall (2012), which the Washington Post called “a powerful, beautifully crafted book”; Native Guard (2007), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association; and Domestic Work (2000), which was selected by Rita Dove as the winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and won both the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Trethewey is also the author of the poetry chapbook Congregation (2015) and the prose book Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2012).

Among her many honors, Trethewey is the recipient of a 2017 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities category, as well as the 2016 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. In the judge’s citation, Marilyn Nelson stated: “Natasha Trethewey’s poems plumb personal and national history to meditate on the conundrum of American racial identities. Whether writing of her complex family torn by tragic loss, or in diverse imagined voices from the more distant past, Trethewey encourages us to reflect, learn, and experience delight. The wide scope of her interests and her adept handling of form have created an opus of classics both elegant and necessary.”

Trethewey has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. In 2013 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. At Northwestern University she is a Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Poet, essayist, and educator Tonya M. Foster is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court, and the bilingual chapbook La Grammaire des Os; the chapbook A History of the Bitch (forthcoming, Sputnik and Fizzle2020); and co-editor of Third Mind: Creative Writing through Visual Art. Her next poetry collection, Thingification is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2021. Monkey Talk, a multi-genre series about race, paranoia, aesthetics and surveillance is in development with support from a 2020 Creative Capital Foundation grant. Dr. Foster is a poetry editor at Fence Magazine. A recipient of awards and fellowships from the Ford and the Mellon Foundations, the Center for the Humanities, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and from New York Foundation for the Arts, she has been an artist-in-Residence at the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora, at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and at Macdowell. A 2020-2021 Lisa Goldberg Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University, Tonya holds the George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry at San Francisco State University. She was raised in New Orleans, and her family goes generations back in Louisiana.

This event is supported in part by Poets & Writers.



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