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.
This “Literary Treasures” post, written by intern Megan Jenkins, examines an audio recording from the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature featuring Lucille Clifton reading her poems at the Library of Congress on December 2, 1999.
In commemoration of Juneteenth, Manuscript Division curator Barbara Bair explores Ralph Ellison’s unfinished second novel. First published posthumously in 1999 as “Juneteenth,” and a decade later (in 2010) as “Three Days Before the Shooting…,” Ellison’s novel takes a deep dive into the complexities of race and violence and prices of transformation in America.
Tonight we will air a new National Book Festival Presents program, “Ha Jin on the Legendary Li Bai,” at 7 PM EST on the Library’s Facebook page and YouTube site.
Looking forward to the 2020 National Book Festival? In the meantime, you can watch past festival presentations by exploring our full National Book Festival video collection—which includes this video of poet Kevin Young reading and discussing his poems on the Poetry & Prose stage at the 2015 festival.
The Library of Congress, through its Center for the Book, has affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Now, you can learn about your local Center for the Book’s public programs in one place: Our newly launched Calendar of Events tells you what your state or territory is doing as well as the activities of other Affiliate Centers. And, through the beauty of the internet, you can be a part of programs from just about any state, as the current pandemic has forced almost all programs to go online.
For Jewish American Heritage Month, Manuscript Division curator Barbara Bair explores Philip Roth’s novel “The Plot Against America” (and its recent television adaptation). Set between 1940 and 1942, when Roth himself was a child, the novel examines the status of being Jewish and being American in a particularly perilous time period in American and world history.
May is the month of Walt Whitman’s birth and also of Memorial Day, when the nation is asked to pause and delve mindfully into remembrance of past wars and service and sacrifices rendered. Library of Congress Manuscript Division curator Barbara Bair explores Whitman’s experiences and remembrances of war, isolation, suffering, and a turn to art in times of crisis—and how these themes connect to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Kaleena Black, educational resources specialist in the Library’s Learning and Innovation Office, offers teachers and students suggestions for identifying and exploring sources of inspiration and creativity by watching Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s inaugural event.
Intern Brooke Biastock explores a recording of Audre Lorde and Marge Piercy reading their poetry in the Coolidge Auditorium in 1982. This recording was just added as part of our annual release, during National Poetry Month, of 50 newly streaming recordings to the online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.