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Best local poet: Natasha Trethewey

Staff Pick

Decatur's reputation as a bastion of literature precedes it. The seven-year-old Decatur Book Festival proudly holds the title of largest independent book festival in the country. Dozens of writers such as Joshilyn Jackson, Kevin Young, Josh Russell, and Terra Elan McVoy (DBF program director) call the mini-city home. But in 2012, the bookish enclave's cachet was secured in the history books when local author and Emory professor Natasha Trethewey was named the 2012-13 U.S. Poet Laureate. Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her poetry collection Native Guard, is only the second Southerner and African-American ever honored with the award. (Robert Penn Warren was the original laureate in 1986 and Rita Dove received the title in 1993.) Trethewey's poems and prose are meditations on family, race, memory, identity, and place inspired by her experience growing up biracial in the South. She began writing poetry after her mother was murdered by her stepfather "to make sense of what had happened," she told the Associated Press this year. In August, Trethewey launched her fourth collection of poems, Thrall, with the keynote address at the Decatur Book Festival. www.poets.org/ntret.

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