A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Trethewey has published four poetry collections: Domestic Work (2000); Bellocqs Ophelia (2002); Native Guard (2006) and Thrall (2012). Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, appeared in 2010. She received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Native Guard and has also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Trethewey is currently Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University as well as State Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
Trethewey is the second sitting US Poet laureate to visit Marygrove as part of the Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series. The first was Rita Dove in 1996.
And it was Dove who selected Trethewey's Domestic Work as the inaugural winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet. Domestic Work also received the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Dove has written, "Trethewey eschews the Polaroid instant, choosing to render the unsuspecting yearnings and tremulous hopes that accompany our most private thoughts reclaiming for us that interior life where the true self flourishes and to which we return, in solitary reverie, for strength."
As Poet Laureate, Trethewey has been featured on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series known as Where Poetry Lives. Trethewey travels with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown to different American cities in order to explore societal issues through literature. As part of this series, she visited participants in Detroit's InsideOut Poetry in the Schools project for a program which aired on October 23, 2013.
Now in its twenty-sixth year, the Contemporary American Authors Lecture is an annual event bringing a nationally-known African American author to the Marygrove campus for a public reading and seminar with students. It began when the late Frederick P. Currier, a former Marygrove College trustee, attended a reception on campus and remarked that he would like to bring a national writer to Marygrove for a weekend. Mr. Currier's start-up check soon followed his suggestion, and on April 21, 1989 nearly 600 guests of the College heard Gloria Naylor inaugurate the series.
The series has flourished thanks in large part to the generosity of Lillian and Don Bauder whose endowment supports the evening lecture as well as the Mary Helen Washington Writing Contest in which local high school students respond in writing to the visiting authors' works.
The support of Lillian and Don Bauder along with that of many other individuals, foundations, and corporations keeps the series free and open to the public.