The Mississippian is the first Southerner to hold the post since Robert Penn Warren — and, at 46, one of the youngest

By Ken Tucker
Updated June 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Trethewey, an English and creative-writing professor at Emory University in Atlanta, writes vividly about the past, from the lives of Civil War soldiers (in the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Native Guard, the best introduction to her work) to her own (Trethewey’s mother was murdered in 1985, and the repercussions have long rumbled through her poetry). Her verse is both accessible and elegant. In ”Graveyard Blues” she writes, ”I wander now among names of the dead:/My mother’s name, stone pillow for my head.” A new collection, Thrall, will be published in September.