Friday, August 17, 2007

The U.S. of Amnesia

This is an excerpt from an interview of Natasha Trethewey by Deborah Soloman. It was published on May 13, 2007 in the NY Times magazine. Natasha Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry this year for her third collection called Native Guard.

Q: In one of your newer poems, you lament, "I wander now among names of the dead: My mother's name, stone pillow for my head." How did she die?

NT: She was murdered in 1985 by her second husband, whom she divorced about a year earlier. He had a history of violence. He killed her so no one else could have her.

Q: I'm so sorry. Where is he now?

NT: In state prison in Georgia. He's serving two consecutive life sentences.

Q: So the title of your collection, "Native Guard," might refer, in the end, to your own desire to guard your mother.

NT: I'm too late. It's too late. I can't go back and save her. I can only save her memory. Figuratively, the title represents the idea that I am a native guardian to the memory of my mother's life.

Q: On the other hand, you can overdo remembering. What do you make of Nietzsche's statement that without forgetting, it is impossible to live at all?

NT: I think that's true. For the sake of sanity, there is a lot of necessary forgetting. But the trick is to balance forgetting with necessary remembering, to avoid historical amnesia.

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