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Thrall: Poemsby Natasha Trethewey
Synopses & Reviews
By unflinchingly charting the intersections of public and personal history, Thrall explores the historical, cultural, and social forces--across time and space--that determine the roles consigned to a mixed-race daughter and her white father. In a vivid series of poems about interracial marriage depicted in the Casta Paintings of Colonial Mexico, Trethewey investigates the philosophical assumptions that underpin Enlightenment notions of taxonomy and classification, exposing the way they encode ideas of race within our collective imagination. While tropes about captivity, bondage, inheritance, and enthrallment permeate the collection, Trethewey, by reflecting on a series of small estrangements from her poet father, comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.
Thrall not only confirms that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most gifted and necessary poets but that she is also one of our most brilliant and fearless.
"Trethewey made headlines and signaled a generational shift with her appointment this year as U.S. poet laureate. Already known for her 2007 Pulitzer Prize — winning Native Guard and for her articulate, deftly shaped, and sometimes research-driven poems about history and race, Trethewey in this fourth collection takes her familiar powers to non — U.S. turf, considering race, embodiment, guilt and liberation in paintings from Spain and Mexico. In one of the famous casta paintings illustrating Spanish colonial notions of race, a mulatto boy 'is a palimpsest of paint — / layers of color, history rendering him// that precise shade of in-between.' Lightly rhymed pentameters about Diego VelÃ¡zquez's painting 'Kitchen Maid' pay homage to the scrutinized character: 'she is the mortar/ and the pestle and rest in the mortar — still angled/ in its posture of use'; the patient title poem considers Juan de Pareja, a painter who started life as VelÃ¡zquez's slave. When Trethewey turns her attention back to contemporary America, she looks at her own family: her late African-American mother and her white father, his life 'showing me// how one life is bound to another, that hardship/ endures.' Trethewey's ideas are not always original, but her searching treatments of her own family, and of people in paintings, show strength and care, and a sharp sense of line. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard explored Natasha Tretheweys relationship with her black mother. Now, her new collection, Thrall, takes on the uneasy relationship between her and her white father. It charts the intersections of public and personal history that determine the roles to which a mixed-race daughter and her white father are consigned.
Growing up in the Deep South, Natasha Trethewey was never told that in her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, black soldiers had played a pivotal role in the Civil War. Off the coast, on Ship Island, stood a fort that had once been a Union prison housing Confederate captives. Protecting the fort was the second regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards — one of the Union's first official black units. Trethewey's new book of poems pays homage to the soldiers who served and whose voices have echoed through her own life.
The title poem imagines the life of a former slave stationed at the fort, who is charged with writing letters home for the illiterate or invalid POWs and his fellow soldiers. Just as he becomes the guard of Ship Island's memory, so Trethewey recalls her own childhood as the daughter of a black woman and a white man. Her parents' marriage was still illegal in 1966 Mississippi. The racial legacy of the Civil War echoes through elegiac poems that honor her own mother and the forgotten history of her native South. Native Guard is haunted by the intersection of national and personal experience.
Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Natasha Tretheweys elegiac Native Guard is a deeply personal volume that brings together two legacies of the Deep South.
The title of the collection refers to the Mississippi Native Guards, a black regiment whose role in the Civil War has been largely overlooked by history. As a child in Gulfport, Mississippi, in the 1960s, Trethewey could gaze across the water to the fort on Ship Island where Confederate captives once were guarded by black soldiers serving the Union cause. The racial legacy of the South touched Tretheweys life on a much more immediate level, too. Many of the poems in Native Guard pay loving tribute to her mother, whose marriage to a white man was illegal in her native Mississippi in the 1960s. Years after her mothers tragic death, Trethewey reclaims her memory, just as she reclaims the voices of the black soldiers whose service has been all but forgotten.
The stunning follow-up volume to her 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard, by Americas new Poet Laureate
Natasha Tretheweys poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history. Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate Thrall, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.
Thrall confirms not only that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most gifted and necessary poets but that she is also one of our most brilliant and fearless.
About the Author
Natasha Trethewey is the author of two previously published collections, Belloq's Ophelia and Domestic Work. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, she was the recipient of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Grolier Poetry Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Emory University.
Table of Contents
Miracle of the Black Leg 9
On Captivity 13
1. DE ESPAÑOL Y DE INDIA PRODUCE MESTIZO 16
2. DE ESPAÑOL Y NEGRA PRODUCE MULATO 19
3. DE ESPAÑOL Y MESTIZA PRODUCE CASTIZA 22
4. THE BOOK OF CASTAS 24
Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus; or, The Mulata 27
The Americans 33
1. DR. SAMUEL ADOLPHUS CARTWRIGHT ON
DISSECTING THE WHITE NEGRO, 1851 33
2. BLOOD 34
3. HELP, 1968 35
Mano Prieta 37
De Español y Negra; Mulata 39
1. NOSTOS 41
2. QUESTIONS POSED BY THE DREAM 42
3. SIREN 43
Torna Atrás 48
Bird in the House 50
How the Past Comes Back 72
On Happiness 74
Vespertina Cognitio 75
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