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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

Natasha Trethewey Interviews Elizabeth Alexander

Yale University
Published December 10, 2009


Poets Natasha Trethewey and Elizabeth Alexander discuss real and imagined spaces and places, Upsouth and down home, in this October 16, 2009, interview in New Haven, Connecticut. Alexander also reads and comments on several of her poems.

"Natasha Trethewey Interviews Elizabeth Alexander" is part of the Poets in Place series, a Research Collaboration in the Humanities initiative funded through Emory University’s Presidential Woodruff Fund, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost. Series producers are Natasha Trethewey and Allen Tullos.

Interview with Natasha Trethewey

Part 2Alexander discusses growing up in NYC and Washington DC, DC as Upsouth, identifications with Blackness and southernness

Part 3Alexander discusses southernness and urban space, and reads from “Letter: Blues,” “Frank Willis,” “Talk Radio, DC”

Part 4Alexander reads “Race” and comments on the pale-skinned body; Trethewey compares “Race” and Phillip Levine’s “The Mercy” 

Part 5Alexander reads from “Six Yellow Stanzas,” exploring legibility, estrangement, and connections to New Orleans

Part 6Alexander discusses black migration experience in her family, her use of direct address, and reads from “Georgia Postcard” 

Part 7Alexander reads and discusses “The Dirt Eaters” and “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe” 

Text of Poems Referenced

"Ellipsis," "Letter: Blues," "Frank Willis," "Talk Radio, D.C.," "Race," Phillip Levine's "The Mercy," "Six Yellow Stanzas," "Georgia Postcard," "The Dirt Eaters," and "Ars Poetica #100: I Believe."

About Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C. She has published several books of poems, including: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the American Library Association's "Notable Books of the Year." In 2008, she composed and delivered "Praise Song for the Day" for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is also the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that "contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954," and is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets & Writers, Inc.

Videography for this interview was provided by Sam McConnell and Lukas Hauser.

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