Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on April 26, 1966. She is the author of four poetry collections and a book of creative non-fiction. Her honors include the Pulitzer Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, she was appointed the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
Trethewey received a BA from the University of Georgia, an MA from Hollins College (now Hollins University), and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts. Her first book of poems, Domestic Work (2000), was selected by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove as winner of the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was published by Graywolf Press. Her subsequent poetry collections include Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf Press, 2002), Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), and Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012).
In 2010, Trethewey published Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press), a memoir that details the struggles of her family living in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Trethewey’s other prizes include four Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prizes, two Lillian Smith Book Awards for Poetry, and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her collection Bellocq’s Ophelia was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association. She was named the 2008 Georgia Woman of the Year and also received the 2008 Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2009 Trethewey was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and in 2011 she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
Trethewey taught English at Auburn University in 1997. She moved to Emory University in 2001 and is now the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing. From 2005-2006 she served as Lehman Brady Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies, a joint appointment at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 2009 she served as the James Weldon Johnson Fellow in African American Studies at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.
She and her husband Brett Gadsden, a historian and professor of African American Studies at Emory University, divided her first term between Decatur, Georgia and Washington, D.C, whereTrethewey took up residency at the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center. During her second term, she followed previous multiyear laureates—such as Kay Ryan, Ted Kooser, and Billy Collins—and undertook a signature project: a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series called "Where Poetry Lives."