Best of the National Book Festival: Natasha Trethewey and Jenny Xie, 2019

Each weekday, the National Book Festival blog is featuring a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of the new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. This post spotlights former Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and poet Jenny Xie at the 2019 National Book Festival. Please enjoy, and make sure to keep up with the whole blog series and explore the full National Book Festival video collection!

The “Poetry of Place” was the theme of a discussion on the Poetry & Prose stage of the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival. Anya Creightney, programs manager in the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, introduced poets Natasha Trethewey and Jenny Xie. Trethewey was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2012-14 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Xie is a recipient of the Walt Whitman Award and the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University, among other honors.

At one point in the conversation, Trethewey talks about the tensions of history and place in her work: “The geography into which I was born — the deep South, Mississippi, on Confederate Memorial Day — is a kind of destiny. When you’re given your history, you inherit the history of the place, of the people there. You are both inside of it and, if you’re lucky, able to step outside of it and look at your place in this particular history.”

The presentation begins with a reading by both poets. Natasha Trethewey reads three poems from “Monument: Poems New and Selected”:

  • “Miscegenation” (2:57)
  • “Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath” (5:26)
  • “Articulation” (8:51)

Jenny Xie reads two poems from “Eye Level”:

  • “Phnom Penh Diptych: Dry Season” (11:08)
  • “Naturalization” (17:00)

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to the National Book Festival blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.

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