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Emory's Trethewey explores power of words to move a nation

By Elaine Justice | Emory Report | April 10, 2014

As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. Poet Laureate and Emory University professor Natasha Trethewey and PBS NewsHour chief correspondent Jeffrey Brown will explore the power of words to move a nation on the show's "Where Poetry Lives" segment, airing Friday, April 11.

Trethewey and Brown recently joined Congressman John Lewis, Myrlie Evers, the Rev. Edwin King, Emory President James Wagner and a bipartisan group of politicians and activists participating in the annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage

The visit was a homecoming of sorts for Trethewey, who grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a black mother and white father. Her family was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan, and as a young girl, she watched as they burned a cross in her front yard. 

The experience inspires Trethewey's poetry and her commitment to social justice: "It is the scaffolding that holds up all the things that I'm concerned about as a poet," she has said, and underscored for her the necessity of American poetry as "a kind of recording of our cultural moment and to record the history of a people."  

PBS NewsHour will air locally on Georgia Public Broadcasting at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and on Atlanta's WPBA at 7 p.m.

Trethewey, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing and director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory, has teamed up with the NewsHour's Brown to report from locations across the country on issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry. 

Previous reports in the "Where Poetry Lives" series include:

A profile of Detroit's InsideOut Literary Arts Project which places professional writers and poets in inner city schools to help children give voice to their often turbulent lives through poetry and writing.

A look at the Alzheimer's Poetry Project, which uses poems commonly memorized and recited in youth, to bring joy and to trigger long term memories in dementia patients, not just of the poems, but of family members and their own identity.

How Dr. Rafael Campo is using poetry to help medical students hone the art of medicine.

PBS NewsHour's coverage of poetry is funded by the Poetry Foundation. The "Where Poetry Lives" series is a partnership with the Library of Congress' Poetry and Literature Center.