Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd explained why seventy-something people gathered Thursday afternoon at the un-air conditioned bandstand in the middle of the court square.
“We are here today,” Floyd said to Natasha Trethewey, “because you are our rock star.”
Actually, she’s the poet laureate of the United States. That’s the equivalent of rock star for literary folks, of which Decatur has many.
Trethewey’s appointment solidifies Decatur’s place as one of the South’s leading literary towns.
It’s home to the ever-growing Decatur Book Festival as well as numerous writers of national reputation.
Daren Wang, book festival director, is well aware of the abundance of literary talent in Decaur's four square miles.
“In 30 years we’ll all be talking about the salad days of Decatur like this,” he said. “We’re at the center of something.”
Tretheway is simply the biggest name. The Emory University creative writing professor has published three books of poetry – one of them won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007 – and one non-fiction book about Hurricane Katrina. She has a fourth volume of verse coming out this fall.
She choked up for a moment when she took the microphone.
“This is really what it means to be part of a community,” she said. “I’m the U.S. poet laureate but I hope I’m your poet laureate.”