Best-selling poet, essayist and memoirist Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize winner, found solace in verse at the time of her deepest grief.
Today, she is a passionate advocate for the power of poetry. “It’s how we have to connect not just the mind but also the heart, to engage the whole body with the breath, with the rhythm,” she said. Poets and writers.
Trethewey, who served as 19e Poet Laureate of the United States, will be the keynote speaker at the Annual Morton Marcus Poetry Reading at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Merrill College Cultural Center at UC Santa Cruz.
The poetry reading is presented by UCSC’s Institute of Humanities.
The event is free and open to the public, but prior registration is required.
The reading series pays tribute to the life and work of the poet, author, teacher, film critic and activist for the arts Morton Marcus (1936–2009). A longtime resident of Santa Cruz, Marcus was strongly associated with the Central Coast literary community.
Poet and artist Gary Young will host the program. The evening will include an announcement from poetry contest winner Morton Marcus. The recipient receives a prize of $1,000.
“This year’s Morton March poetry reading is the 13th in the series, and this year’s poet, Natasha Trethewey, continues our mission to bring the best working poets in America to UCSC and the greater Santa community. Cruz,” said Young, a permanent speaker. at UCSC and editor of the Cowell Press.
“I have been reading and teaching Trethewey’s poems since his second book, Ophelie de Bellocq, came out about 20 years ago,” Young continued. “His rigorous and inventive intelligence and the music of his poems fascinated me then, and still do.”
This event is a milestone in another way: it marks a return to in-person poetry readings at UCSC after two years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can’t imagine a more fierce, penetrating and engaging writer than Natasha Trethewey to host the Live Campus Readings and Morton Marcus Reading Series,” Young said.
“An opening in time”
In an interview with the Paris reviewTrethewey, best-selling memoir author Memorial Road, commemorating the life and murder of his mother, spoke of the uncanny power of poetry “to create a kind of openness in time; I feel like there are moments of resurrection in which I can fully live, like a memory of my mother bringing her back… my living mother is also with me. It is the seed planted in the heart that grows and grows.
San Francisco writer Mark Ong, who is part of the The Morton Marcus Poetry Reading Organizing Committee, who is the literary executor of Morton Marcus, spoke of Trethewey’s artistry, poise, focus and discipline.
“A good poet is a high-flying artist,” Ong said. “They must walk between past poetry and the distant point of their own work. They must bridge the constraints of the words and their own creativity. And they must stand between their own terrors and the healing possibilities of art.
Trethewey was a 19-year-old student when her estranged stepfather murdered her mother. Trethewey told interviewers that his life as a poet really began at this time.
“If you have read his memoirs, Memorial road, you know she endured horrible events,” Ong said. “Yet she bravely shapes her past into what all poetry must do: shape the unspeakable.”
Trethewey is the author of five collections of poetry, including native guard (2006), for which she received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize; Monument: New and Selected Poems (2018); Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010).
Trethewey’s non-fiction book, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was published in 2010. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Bunting Fellowship Program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. At Northwestern University, she is Professor of English on the Board of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
In 2012 she was named Mississippi State Poet Laureate and in 2013 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Places are limited at the cultural center so register here to reserve your place.