Event featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, local artist set for Dec. 11

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Gulfport native Natasha Trethewey will join local artist H.C. Porter Thursday for Native Daughters: Conversations on Poetry, an event to highlight their collaboration on Porter’s new book, “Backyards & Beyond: Mississippians and Their Stories.”

If you go

Native Daughters: Conversations of Poetry will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and may be purchased at the door or in advance at the H.C. Porter Gallery, 1216 Washington St. Group discounts are available.

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Trethewey will open with a poetry reading, then the artists will discuss the book, for which Trethewey wrote the foreword. The publication was released in November as a companion piece to Porter’s traveling exhibit, Backyards & Beyond: Mississippians and Their Stories — The First Year After Katrina.

“I am very grateful to Mississippi’s daughter and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey for bringing her voice to Vicksburg for this event,” said Porter, who operates a gallery on Washington Street. “She is a poet of unsurpassed talent and honors who was gracious enough to lend her words to our ‘Backyards & Beyond: Mississippians and Their Stories’ project.”

Trethewey is a creative writing professor at Atlanta’s Emory University. She was the 2007 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for “Native Guard,” a collection that reflects on the complexities of the American South. Trethewey has written a poem about visiting Vicksburg, “Pilgrimage.” Her poem, “Liturgy,” written about her hometown of Gulfport after Hurricane Katrina, is the foreword to Porter’s book.

“The last line of my poem, ‘Liturgy,’ reads, ‘native daughter: I am the Gulf Coast,’” Trethewey said. “I wrote about it because it’s my home. I am always happy to return to my home state.”

Porter is a native of Jackson, but moved to Vicksburg in 2006. Her project, Backyards & Beyond, was started Sept. 18, 2005, two weeks after Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It wrapped up on the storm’s first anniversary, Aug. 29, 2006, closing out a year that Porter spent documenting life in the aftermath of one of the country’s most devastating storms.

About 9,000 photographs were taken for the traveling exhibit, which was last on display at the Katrina Research Center at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and will, in 2010, head to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock for the fifth anniversary of Katrina.

While Porter took pictures, Karole Sessums, collaborator and Backyards & Beyond executive director, collected live field recordings of the people they met. The exhibit is comprised of environmental portrait paintings by Porter and the audio compiled by Sessums. The book features the 81 mixed media original paintings that make up the exhibit.

In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize winner, Trethewey is the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair, the recipient of the 2008 Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and was named the 2008 Georgia Woman of the Year.

The event featuring she and Porter will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and may be purchased at the door or in advance at Porter’s gallery at 1216 Washington St. Group discounts are available.

Copies of “Backyards & Beyond,” as well as Trethewey’s works, will be sold. The artists will be on had to sign their works.


Contact Megan Holland at mholland@vicksburgpost.com.