Natasha Trethewey

Gulfport native Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, will deliver the fifth annual Bettye Jolly Lecture on the lawn of the Eudora Welty House and Garden in Jackson Friday evening.

“Bettye would be overwhelmed,” Jeanne Luckett, communications consultant for the Eudora Welty Foundation, said. “She was quite a literary figure herself. She would be thrilled that we’re having a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and beautiful soul in Natasha to be doing this lecture. I’m sure she’d be very honored by it.”

Cosponsored by the Visiting Writers Series at Millsaps College, the annual lecture was originally founded by a book club that grew out of a Millsaps Topics Seminar taught by Suzanne Marrs. In 2015, the book club partnered with the Welty Foundation to honor Jolly, “one of our very faithful volunteers,” who died of Cancer.

“We raised money together to make it happen,” Luckett said. “We have a really outstanding, nationally known writer every year.”

And “really outstanding” Trethewey is. In addition to being the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States, she is the author of five collections of poetry and a memoir and was even named the 2012 -2016 Poet Laureate of Mississippi.  In 2013, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Four years later, she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. Her latest book, Monument, was nominated for the 2018 National Book Award. That same year, the poet traveled across the country for the PBS NewsHour series “Where Poetry Lives.” A faculty member of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Trethewey is a Board of Trustees Professor of English.

Trethewey’s Friday lecture is expected to reflect her foreword in the new edition of “Eudora Welty: Photographs,” which will be celebrated with an event at the Welty House on April 13, Welty’s birthday and the 30th anniversary of the book’s original publication.

“We hoped that she could’ve been here in April, but she’s a very busy woman,” Luckett said. “We’re still very excited about her (Bettye Jolly) Lecture on Friday. She’ll be talking a little bit about her work on the book, what it meant to her, what she got out of it and why she was drawn to it.”

Trethewey’s lecture will begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.