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Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 12:22pm

Natasha Tretheway Named Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress has named Georgia poet and educator Natasha Tretheway the nation's 19th poet laureate.

The Emory University writing professor becomes the first poet laureate to hail from the South since 1986.

The first was Kentucky's Robert Penn Warren, who Tretheway claims is a source of inspiration.

She says, her new title will give her a chance to touch more lives and turn them on to poetry.

"I sort of see that in my role as a professor, you know someone who teaches poetry," Tretheway says. "So it's not really unlike what I'm trying to do in my classes when I want to get people interested in and excited about poetry."

She is also the first African-American poet laureate since Rita Dove held the post in 1995 and, at 46 years old, one of the youngest poets so honored.

"The joy is somewhat overwhelming and also trying to respond to all the friends and people who've been sending me good wishes," Tretheway says. "It's been lovely."

Tretheway won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems "Native Guard."

The book focused on black soldiers in the Civil War.

She also is serving as Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

She was named to the state position in January for a four-year term and will continue in the position while serving as U.S. Poet Laureate.

Trethewey's other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

She has also received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the Lillian Smith Award for Poetry.