The Nations Poet
By Rosalind Bentley
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Personal Journeys is a new weekly feature for readers who like good writing and good story-telling
The National Book Festival along the Mall in Washington is thronged with readers and authors who’ve come to revel in the written word on this fall day in 2004.
Just three years old, the festival has been forged by first lady Laura Bush and the Library of Congress in the belief that literature is a living thing, that the right words, composed in just the right way, can push a life forward.
To the podium steps poet Natasha Trethewey.
Her work illuminates people in the shadows: a seamstress stitching her way through segregation; an early 20th-century prostitute so fair skinned she can pass for white; a dock worker’s wife who keeps her husband’s supper warm as she waits for him well into the night.
Into some of her poems she has woven her own complex story: the blending of the black and white blood that made her; her blood tie to her native Mississippi; the blood of her mother, cruelly spilled.