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Her family in Gulfport survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and their struggles, as well as the city’s efforts to rebuild, became the subject of Trethewey’s 2010 book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Returning to Gulfport, she felt “a great sense of loss, not only for what I had lost of my past but for all the people there who were trying to rebuild their lives. … And I certainly felt a deep sadness for the loss of so much of what had been my childhood — the places, the landmarks.”
Her other works include “Bellocq’s Ophelia” and “Domestic Work,” for which she won the 1999 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.
Trethewey began writing poetry at age 19 as a way to work through grief after her mother was murdered by her stepfather.
Poetry, she says, often plays a similar role in modern society.
“What poetry can always do is to comfort us and remind us that we’re not alone in our grief and suffering. Poems are what we turn to when things seem unspeakable. And that’s why so many people turned to poetry after 9/11 — more poems were read and written in the period following that national tragedy than had been in a long time.”