U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, a UGA graduate, will deliver the UGA Charter Lecture on Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Chapel with a public reception immediately following in Demosthenian Hall.
Poet Natasha Trethewey captures readers through the depth of her poetry, while still using simplistic style elements that virtually anyone can understand. She artistically relays personal stories within her poetry and manages to connect with readers in such a way that they too feel they were a part of her childhood.
Alhough an English major, I was not fond of poetry before coming into contact with Trethewey’s work. In my past experience, poetry was just a series of lines that no one truly comprehended, which resulted in any perception being accepted as true. I believe that we have all heard the words: “It means whatever you want it to mean, as long as you can explain it.” This very saying is murmured in the high school classroom in which I student teach, and I even hear it on our college campus.
The belief that you can “make it all up” provides the avenue through which many people finagle their way out of deeply analyzing a poem, causing them to leave the written work without personal growth or new insights. Now that I have taken numerous classes at UGA, I know that poetry achieves a similar impact (though somewhat different) as many other styles of writing. I cannot ignore the reality that Trethewey triggered my new appreciation and positive perception of poetry through her work.
My favorite poem by Trethewey, titled “Domestic Work,” is one that I believe everyone should take the time to read. This was the first poem I ever read by the author, and it still gives me pause every time I revisit it. This poem narrates the daily work of an old woman as she cleans a house she does not live in, cooks on Sunday mornings (because they are the only days that belong to her) and washes and irons her clothes. I am most impressed by this poem because it does not invoke sadness or pity for the old lady spoken of. The character in this poem is instead viewed as admirable and strong as she does work many would feel too proud to do. Although some of us may not have personally known our grandmothers and fail in relating to their struggles, we know the pride that is associated with hard work and the hope that is connected to change. The elderly woman does not dwell on hardships because she chooses to place her faith in her God. I like Trethewey’s poem because I am reminded of the determination of my own grandmother, who has had to lean on religion to make sense of numerous difficult events that have occurred within her life. This poem shows a subtle appreciation for all of our ancestors, who have had to endure certain struggles so that we would not know hardships and suffering existed.
While those who enjoy novels can stand to be captivated for an extended period of time, poetry does not require this of its readers. Poetry only requires a few minutes of one’s time and an inquiring mind.
Trethewey has convinced many young, aspiring writers — myself included — that the world wants to hear of topics that may seem unimportant to our immediate communities. These issues are not ignored because they have no influence, but because not enough brave souls choose to write about them. Tretheway encourages us to take out our pens and create voices for many who have been silenced by closed doors, empty spaces and glass ceilings. Trethewey’s presence at the University of Georgia’s Spotlight on the Arts festival is an honor, and the university is lucky to be able to claim the current U.S. Poet Laureate as an alumna. Never have I been so proud to be a member of the Park Hall family, and people like Trethewey prove that UGA graduates are productive members of a changing society who make remarkable impacts on the world. We, therefore, should hope to be more like Trethewey as we make our own marks, so that people will one day write about us and talk about how we inspired them.
— Crystal Reese is a senior from Thomson majoring in English and English education