Two of my favorite things in the whole world that resonate deeply in my heart are poetry and the beaches of coastal Georgia (known as the Golden Isles), including Jekyll Island. The two converged at the Georgia Literary Festival held in the newly constructed Jekyll Island Convention Center (which is a gorgeous new incarnation of the old facility and remains beachside). The festival, which was free to everyone, included a diverse range of authors, events, and genres; you can learn more about the festival by clicking on this special publication from the Brunswick News.
While there were several events, topics, and authors of interest to me, I specifically attended the festival to hear Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate. She read poems from her new book, Thrall, a collection of poetry that explores attitudes about race through multiple contexts that are both personal and historical in a manner that is bold, courageous, and poignant. Her transcendent readings of the poems were exquisite and searing, and I felt as though I had experienced a kind of catharsis in the hour that seemed to pass in a matter of minutes. I was too awestruck to utter much of anything when it was my turn to have her autograph my copies of Thrall and Native Guard for it was quite humbling to have been in the presence of such a gifted artist and poet. Afterwards, I savored some time at the beach, which is easily accessible from the convention center, to try and process the experience of her beautiful yet haunting poetry reading. The festival also gave me inspiration for some future professional and personal endeavors I hope to pursue in the immediate and long-term future. In addition, the festival and weekend jaunt gave me the opportunity to enjoy a memorable and cherished weekend with my mother–her company made a special weekend even more of a treasure.
In addition to the Trethewey experience, I purchased the new issue of The Georgia Review that is a tribute the authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame; you can read more about this fantastic issue here. Another new book purchase was Charles Seabrook’s The World of the Salt Marsh,Appreciating and Protecting the Tidal Marshes of the Southeastern Atlantic Coast, a book I’m looking forward to reading over the holidays. I also highly recommend his marvelous Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses.
I’d like to thank all the organizers of the festival for bringing in Trethewey as well as the other gifted writers, local and national. If you haven’t attended this wonderful event, put it on your “must do” list for the future! I’m including a video clip I shot at the festival of Trethewey reading “Elegy”, the opening poem of Thrall; you can learn more about the poem in this excellent article in The Atlantic.
Bonus Content: “Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History, and Social Justice”