Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three Women Poets from Georgia

There was an interesting article on the front of the Living section in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution about the Emory University poet Natasha Trethewey, whose third collection of poems, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The article, titled “A father reflects on his Pulitzer-winning daughter,” was based on an interview with Natasha’s father, Eric Trethewey, himself a very accomplished poet.

Eric is a professor of English at Hollins University in Virginia where he teaches in the creative writing program. He is the author of five poetry collections and numerous stories, essays, and reviews that have appeared in prestigious magazines and anthologies such as The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The New Republic, and The Southern Review.

Obviously then Natasha is a chip off the old block. Both father and daughter share similar poetic philosophies and a love of traditional forms such as sonnets, ballads, etc. And they read each others work closely.

Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966 to interracial parents (her mother was black and her father is white) who had to leave the South to avoid anti-miscegenation laws, Natasha earned a BA in English from the University of Georgia.

After graduate study at Hollins University (MA in English and Creative Writing) and at the University of Massachusetts (MFA in poetry), and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, she taught at Auburn, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Universities before joining Emory where she holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.

Besides Native Guard, Natasha has published two other collections of poems:

Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000), which won the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize (selected by Rita Dove), a 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry.

Bellocq's Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), received the 2003 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, was a finalist for both the Academy of American Poets' James Laughlin and Lenore Marshall prizes, and was named a 2003 Notable Book by the American Library Association.

Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2000 and 2003, and in journals such as American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and The Southern Review, among others.

Natasha (above right) is a member of the Dark Room Collective, a group of African American poets who first got together in Boston in 1988 with the mission of establishing a community of established and emerging black writers.

Among the most influential members of the DRC, besides Natasha, is fellow Emory poet Kevin Young. Young is the author of five poetry collections and editor of a further four. His poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Callaloo, and many other journals.

Originally from Louisiana, Young has an AB in English and American Literature from Harvard University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. He was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and he has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the NEA.

Kevin has also taught at the University of Georgia and Indiana University, where he was the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry. Currently he is Atticus Haygood Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing, and Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory.

It’s no hyperbole then to say that one of Georgia’s own is among this country’s premier poets. It’s also comforting that Natasha Trethewey is now teaching in Georgia and sharing her talent with students in this state.

I know you’re thinking “but what about the other two women poets from Georgia?” so here we go…

When I was a graduate student in the Comparative Literature department at the University of Georgia in the early 90s, I used to rub shoulders with members of the Classics department as we shared the same digs in Park Hall. One of the undergraduate Classics majors I knew was Alicia Stallings, a winsome blonde girl who is the second of our Georgia poets.

A. E. Stallings (her nom de plume) was born in 1968 and grew up in Decatur, Georgia. After graduating with a degree in Classics from UGA she crossed the Atlantic to study at Oxford. She now lives in Athens, Greece, with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and young son.

Her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry series (1994 & 2000) and has received numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize, the Eunice Tietjens Prize (1997) and the Frederick Bock Prize (2004) from Poetry, the James Dickey Prize from Five Points, and the Nemerov Sonnet Award from The Formalist.

Her first poetry collection, Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press, 1999), was awarded the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award by judge Dana Gioia. Her second collection, Hapax (TriQuarterly, 2006), takes its name from the Ancient Greek word meaning "once, once only, once and for all."

She composed the Latin lyrics for the opening music of the Paramount film, The Sum of All Fears, and she has completed work on a verse translation, due out later this year, of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura [The Nature of Things] for Penguin Classics.

Alicia’s life is marked by a strong classical strain; from her education to her husband (John is of British and Greek origin and I used to know him when he worked as a journalist and producer at CNN headquarters in Atlanta in the mid/late 90s) to her son, whose name is Jason, to her country of residence.

And yet, despite how far removed she might appear from UGA and Decatur, this up and coming poet is still a Georgia girl.

Our third and final poet is Chelsea Rathburn whose poetry collection, The Shifting Line, was published by the University of Evansville Press in November 2005.

Chelsea earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and is a native of Miami, Florida. Her poems have appeared in The New Criterion, The Hudson Review, The Formalist and Pleiades, among other journals and anthologies.

Although a Florida native, she is a marketing writer by trade and lives in Atlanta with her husband Brandon Arnold who works as a producer for GPB TV's Georgia Outdoors.

The Shifting Line was chosen by poet Tim Steele as the winner of the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award.

Chelsea (pictured left) will be reading at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend in downtown Decatur (Saturday, September 1, at 1:45PM).

These three young poets are among the finest in the country and have very strong ties to Georgia. It’s encouraging to see such vibrancy in what is produced in our great state, and to consider what affect these women might have on future generations of Georgia children.

Poetry of a female persuasion is alive and well in the Peach State, and for that we all should be grateful.

[If you have comments or questions about the blog entry, please email me at . I look forward to hearing from you.]