The William Meredith Foundation is honored to present the 2014 award for poetry to Natasha Trethewey. Beyond the fact that both poets served at the Library of Congress, the award recognizes a shared aesthetic and level of achievement. When Meredith was writing poems, his goal was that they be "useful," that they speak to audiences "In the heart's duress, on the heart's behalf." For Meredith, poetry is essentially an act of communication in the language of the human tribe, not an exercise in intellectual posturing or exhibitionism. His work is accessible and deceptively simple. He speaks to us with a moral authority and finally, like Trethewey, feels impelled "to offer somebody/uncomprehending, impudent thanks."
Congregation is such a document, a "love letter to the Gulf Coast, a praise song, a dirge, invocation and benediction, a requiem for the Gulf Coast." Here are the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina, speaking to her with the folk wisdom, and faith, of the survivor. "Without faith, we is victims," one church marquee proclaims, and another, with a different kind of eloquence, "God is not/ the author of fear."
A pilgrim, she returns to the Gulf Coast and her people, but finds home to be "but a cradle of the past." She cannot enter the church service, "standing at the vestibule - neither in, nor out," and can only watch, her face against the glass, attempting to face the things that confront her. By the end of the cycle, however, she has earned the Whitmanesque final line of the poems, "native daughter: I am the Gulf Coast."