“All the while I kept thinking my plain English and good writing would secure for me some modest position,” writes poet Natasha Trethewey in the 2002 poem “Letter Home.” The poem’s narrator is a former domestic worker looking for a job in 1910 New Orleans and finding none. As for Trethewey, a 1995 graduate of the UMass master of fine arts program, she recently achieved a position no one could consider “modest.”
In 2012, Trethewey became the US poet laureate, making her arguably the nation’s most prominent creative writer. The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection “Native Guard,” Trethewey is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. She is also the first African-American to hold the poet laureate honor since Rita Dove in 1993.