Rabu, 04 Maret 2009

Natasha Trethewey at Albion College

Last night I heard Natasha Trethewey read at Albion College. I had read Native Guard and have heard Trethewey on NPR, but it is great to fill out those experiences. Thad and I drove down, and though he accompanied me primarily out of kindness I think he enjoyed it too. I bought Domestic Work there at the reading, and read Rita Dove's introduction to it this morning. It's a good introduction, though I found one comment odd. Trethewey, writes Dove, "resists the lure of autobiography and is careful to avoid such narrow identification, weaving no less than a tapestry of ancestors..." It is true that this poet's work is not limited to or by autobiography. It is not solipsistic. It is relevant and meaningful, and it is poetry, not memoir. But history, as Dove does acknowledge, is a part of Thethewey's poetry, as is personal history. There is something of autobiography in Trethewey's work. One does not feel mired in it, but the lure of it is clear. What is important is that she has transcended it: she has created art, in her case poetry, out of autobiography.

It was good to return to Albion, and as I watched a group of students interact with Trethewey I was reminded of the benefits of learning in the intimate environment of a small college. Trethewey had met with many of these students and one sensed that they had all enjoyed the chance to get to know each other. At one point, she stepped back from the podium and smiled at one student, mentioning that student's fondness for and knowledge of a particular poem. Then she invited that student up to read that poem, and the student did so with obvious delight. Trethewey listened with appreciation and said, after the student finished, "That is just what a poet hopes. You hope that if you get the words down on the page in the right way, somebody can read it aloud just like that."

It was a good evening. We had sandwiches and coffee in the car, and I really enjoy that drive between Eaton Rapids and Albion. After the reading, I had a chance to talk with one of my old poetry professors.

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