WASHINGTON - A poet-historian representing a younger generation of writers will soon take office on Capitol Hill, overlooking the politicians, in a lesser-known post enshrined in federal law.
The Library of Congress named Natasha Trethewey on Thursday to be its 19th U.S. poet laureate with a mission to share the art of poetry with a wider audience. The 46-year-old English and creative writing professor at Atlanta's Emory University distinguished herself early, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
Trethewey will be the first poet in chief to take up residence in Washington to work at the library's Poetry Room for part of her term in 2013. As one of the youngest poet laureates ever selected, she also brings fresh perspective to an office more recently held by poets in their 80s.
In this 2007 file photo, Pulitzer Prize winning author Natasha Trethewey recalls her young years in Mississippi, during a break in her speaking schedule at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Trethewey will be named the Library of Congress' 19th poet laureate Thursday.
Part of her work has focused on restoring history that has been erased or forgotten from the official record and the nation's shared memory. She has researched in the library's Civil War archive to inform some of her writings.
Trethewey won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems, "Native Guard." She wrote of the Louisiana Native Guard, a black Civil War regiment assigned to guard white Confederate soldiers held on Ship Island off Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
The Confederate prisoners were later memorialized on the island, but not the black Union soldiers.
A stanza reads:
"Some names shall deck the page of history
"as it is written on stone. Some will not."
Librarian of Congress James Billington, who chose Trethewey after hearing her read at the National Book Festival in Washington, said her work explores many tragedies of the Civil War.
"She's taking us into history that was never written," he told The Associated Press. "She takes the greatest human tragedy in American history - the Civil War, 650,000 people killed, the most destructive war of human life for a century - and she takes us inside without preaching."