Poetry Friday: Natasha Tretheway – our 19th. Poet Laureate

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama Ratigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Natasha Tretheway was named our 19th. Poet Laureate today.  Included as part of the news blurb on NPR this evening, was a sound bite of Tretheway reading this poem:

HOT COMBS
At the junk shop, I find an old pair,
black with grease, the teeth still pungent
as burning hair.  One is small,
fine toothed as if for a child. Holding it,
I think of my mother’s slender wrist,
the curve of her neck as she leaned
over the stove, her eyes shut as she pulled
the wooden handle and laid flat the wisps
at her temples. The heat in our kitchen
made her glow that morning I watched her
wincing, the hot comb singeing her brow,
sweat glistening above her lips,
her face made strangely beautiful
as only suffering can do.

I just had to get home as soon as possible and find the poem online so that I could savor the words again.  Tretheway grew up in the South and teaches at Emory University – her poems are infused with Southern themes, American themes – growing up biracial in the South, loving the mystique of New Orleans, suffering through the ravages of Katrina, and knowing profound loss.  Here is Tretheway reading one of her Karina poems, Liturgy:


You can read more about Tretheway here and enjoy her poem “History Lesson” here.

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13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Natasha Tretheway – our 19th. Poet Laureate

  1. Tara, thank you for introducing me to our newest Poet Laureate. I'm happy that Tretheway is exploring Southern themes! Can't wait to read more of her poems.

  2. It's exciting to see the poetry community get behind Trethewey's post as laureate. I heard that she is going to be the first U.S. poet laureate to relocate to D.C. Good news for those of us in the area. I'm looking forward to hearing her read in person.

  3. I'm thrilled that Natasha is our new Poet Laureate! I hadn't heard "Hot Combs" on NPR, so glad you shared it here along with that moving video. Beautiful!

  4. I didn't hear it so thank you for sharing, Tara. Wonderful news to hear that she will be our new poet laureate. She's a treasure. I've read some of the Katrina work, but this hot comb poem is beautifully poignant, heats one up like the comb!

  5. Breaking news for me! How exciting to have a new Poet Laureate who is new-new to me and a woman and from the south! All good! Can't wait to see what she brings to the position!!

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