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Trethewey Discusses Penn Warren in Final Lecture as PLOTUS

By Harriet Staff

Natasha Trethewey

Earlier in the week we mentioned that Natasha Trethewey was concluding her tenure as U.S. poet laureate. Today, we report on her final lecture in which she discusses the poetry of Robert Penn Warren and his transformation from a racist apologist to “an enlightened citizen.” Ron Charles at the Washington Post reports:

In her final presentation as U.S. poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey delivered a complex and searching lecture about the ideological evolution of Robert Penn Warren.

At the Library of Congress on Wednesday night, Trethewey began, as she often does, with her personal history and then moved into a rich exploration of America’s racial heritage.

As the child of an illegal mixed-race marriage in Mississippi, born on Confederate Memorial Day, Trethewey grew up in the shadow of Jim Crow, in what she called “the most Southern place on earth.” She remembers seeing a cross burning near her grandmother’s house. It would be easy for her to hold Warren’s early racist attitudes against him. But, instead, in her lecture — titled “‘The World of Action and Liability:’ on Saying What Happens” — she regarded him in a gracious and intellectually complicated way, charting his progress from apologist to enlightened citizen.

How does she do it? Head to the Washington Post to find out!

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, May 16th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.