Book 39: Native Guard by Natasha Tretheway

Natasha Tretheway won the Pulitzer with this collection of poetry. It is astoundingly well-written and powerful, a beautiful collection dedicated to her late mother.

Her writing is stunning, and though this was assigned reading, I feel certain that I’ll pick up more of her work in the future. Her ability to tie her mother into poems about nearly any topic was both profoundly beautiful and heart-wrenching. The loss of a loved one is a common subject, especially for creative writers or poets, yet her poetry was organic and unique. The most compelling elements of her work being her ability to turn ordinary things like a misspelled word into a well-crafted, meaningful poem.

Themes of movement and change, death, religion, and race/racial tension combine to create a collection that is varied despite an overarching theme of loss.

In Section II Tretheway focuses on Mississippi with a historical lens, often referencing race through the lens of a slave at war time. As a daughter of a mixed-race couple, race is of course a pertinent subject for Tretheway, and she writes beautifully on the topic. Her mother was from Mississippi, and Tretheway was raised there in her home town, which ties into the dedication and overarching theme at hand.

The third section Tretheway depicts her mother’s history, starting with her illegal marriage and pregnancy, going on into her own childhood. This section deals with race in the South during Tretheway’s lifetime and immediately prior to her conception, a more modern look at race. This section also jumps back to the present towards the end.

A few of my favorites were; “Genus Narcissus,” “Graveyard Blues,” “What is Evidence,” “Southern History,” (probably my favorite, and so immensely valuable), “Incident,”  and “Elegy for Native Guards.” Overall there were few, if any, poems that I distinctly disliked.

I give the book a 9.5/10.

Native Guard: Poems

Happy reading,


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