The House of Being (Why I Write) (Hardcover)

The House of Being (Why I Write) By Natasha Trethewey Cover Image
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(Arts & Letters)


An exquisite meditation on the geographies we inherit and the metaphors we inhabit, from Pulitzer Prize winner and nineteenth U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey
“Searching and intimate, this impresses.”—Publishers Weekly

In a shotgun house in Gulfport, Mississippi, at the crossroads of Highway 49, the legendary highway of the Blues, and Jefferson Street, Natasha Trethewey learned to read and write. Before the land was a crossroads, however, it was a pasture: a farming settlement where, after the Civil War, a group of formerly enslaved women, men, and children made a new home.
In this intimate and searching meditation, Trethewey revisits the geography of her childhood to trace the origins of her writing life, born of the need to create new metaphors to inhabit “so that my story would not be determined for me.” She recalls the markers of history and culture that dotted the horizons of her youth: the Confederate flags proudly flown throughout Mississippi; her gradual understanding of her own identity as the child of a Black mother and a white father; and her grandmother’s collages lining the hallway, offering glimpses of the world as it could be. With the clarity of a prophet and the grace of a poet, Trethewey offers up a vision of writing as reclamation: of our own lives and the stories of the vanished, forgotten, and erased.

About the Author

Natasha Trethewey is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. She served two terms as the nineteenth poet laureate of the United States and is the author of five collections of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Native Guard. Her most recent book is the bestselling memoir Memorial Drive. She lives in Evanston, IL.

Praise For…

“Trethewey doesn’t just explore the reasons why she writes. She also offers a compassionate argument for why we must all be the authors of our own stories.”—Shannon Carlin, Time, “New Books You Should Read in April”

“Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Trethewey muses about her development as a writer in this candid meditation. . . . Searching and intimate, this impresses.”—Publishers Weekly

“A slim yet stunning collection of essays.”—Elizabeth Lund, Christian Science Monitor

“In this lyrical, thoughtful volume, Trethewey not only makes surprising, insightful connections between personal and national history; she also paints a profound portrait of unresolvable grief. . . . A thoughtful meditation on a celebrated poet’s reasons for writing.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An elegant and deeply personal exploration. . . . House of Being articulates a key part in the writer’s mission: to move us beyond the question of ‘Why I write’ to contemplate ‘How I think,’ and even ‘What I know.’”—Ann Leamon, Arts Fuse

“Reading this book hurts. . . . But it hurts with the pain that is the pathway to peace. . . . Creating from within the place of memory, as Natasha Trethewey elegantly demonstrates, gives our experience and memory purposeful, permanent meaning.”—Dixie Dillon Lane, Current

Praise for Natasha Trethewey:
“Her exquisite and brutal lyricism as well as her commitment to truth makes Trethewey one of the most important American poets of our time . . . Trethewey is a tremendously empathic and enthusiastic force in our nation’s bleak period. Her words settle with profound gravity.”—Paris Review
“Trethewey’s souvenirs from the past, inflected with the knowledge of the poet she’d become, have the intentionality of memorials, not just memories.”—New Yorker
“Trethewey consistently delivers. . . . [She] digs deep. And the meaning she unearths from her ‘cluttered house of memory’ is tragic, beautiful and consciousness-raising.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Trethewey’s genius for dovetailing the personal and the communal, the impressionistic and the factual, was evident from the start. . . . For all the tragic, overlooked history Trethewey reclaims with clarion lyricism, it is her own family complexities and terrible loss that reverberate most.”—Booklist
“Trethewey is a poet to return to. . . . Her work is God-haunted, clothed with the small flashes of memory against despair.”—The Millions
Praise for Memorial Drive (2020):
“Alternately beautiful and devastating.”—Washington Post
Memorial Drive forces the reader to think about how the sublime Southern conjurers of words, spaces, sounds and patterns protect themselves from trauma when trauma may be, in part, what nudged them down the dusty road to poetic mastery. . . . The more virtuosic our ability to use language to probe, the harder it becomes to protect ourselves from the secrets buried in our—and our nation’s—marrow. This is the conundrum and the blessing of the poet. This is the conundrum and blessing of Memorial Drive.”—New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully composed, achingly sad. . . . This profound story of the horrors of domestic abuse and a daughter’s eternal love for her mother will linger long after the book’s last page is turned.”—Publishers Weekly
“A work of exquisitely distilled anguish and elegiac drama . . . Through finely honed, evermore harrowing memories, dreams, visions, and musings, Trethewey maps the inexorable path to her mother’s murder. . . . Trethewey writes, ‘To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it.’ And tell her tragic story she does in this lyrical, courageous, and resounding remembrance.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A luminous and searing work. . . . In the end, we stand with Trethewey’s grief, feeling it as friends.”—Boston Globe
Praise for Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018):
“The Mississippi-born poet Natasha Trethewey has an exalted résumé . . . but her poems are earthy; they fly close to the ground. . . . [Trethewey has an] insistent intellect and [a] gift for turning over rich soil. . . . The human details in Trethewey’s work—those crabs, that music, those cracked palms—are like the small feathers that give contour to a bird’s wing. Monument is a major book, and in her best poems this poet soars.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
“This collection of old and new poems by the former poet laureate of the United States includes Trethewey’s powerful reflections on the way our nation contends with its diversity and memorializes its past. Think you’re not a poetry perso

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300265927
ISBN-10: 0300265921
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: April 9th, 2024
Pages: 96
Language: English
Series: Why I Write