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Thrall: Poems Hardcover – August 28, 2012
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Natasha Trethewey was appointed to the position of US Poet Laureate in June, 2012, and will soon take up residency in Washington, DC. The position has been previously held by such poets as Robert Lowell, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Frost, and James Dickey (to prove you don't have to be a "Bob."). The selection of Trethewey's work contained in this volume in quite short, but it is richer than a chocolate (as it were) soufflé in terms of the density of thought, and feeling, expressed uniquely and succinctly. And the subject matter is topical: a historical look at the relationship between the races, often on the most intimate basis. Certain of her poems carefully examine the depiction of race by certain artists, particularly Spanish ones. The cover has been aptly chosen to convey this: it is Juan Rodriguez Juarez's "Spaniard and Indian Produce a Mestizo." Tretheway says that the look in the woman's eye is conveying: "see what we have created." Trethewey is currently a professor at Emory, in Atlanta, but her interest in this subject is not exclusively academic. Her father is white, her mother was black (she was killed by her second husband).Read more ›
These are not conventional lyrical or meditative poems. Tretheway is definitely not of the "I stand here ironing and think of my mother" school of conventional prose stuff that is so popular now. Neither is she merely up to linguistic tricks. She mostly uses long-phrased stanzas, broken up into sets of short lines (though a few of the poems are set in conventional even-length lines).
If you are expecting the usual set of poetic concerns, look elsewhere. These poems all explore concerns related to biraciality, thrall (in its widest sense as involuntary condition). What is Tretheway thrall to? What is her father thrall to? How do they both view Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemmings?
There are also some ekphrastic poems, related to paintings of black artists or other racially-related mythologies. You might think that ekphrastic poems can't be effective unless you know or can look at the related picture. Tretheway shows this isn't always true; her descriptions and meditations bring the pictures adequately to mind. Besides, the issue isn't what the picture looks like, but what it inspires in the poet.
Warning: if you prefer conventional poems whose meaning is apparent on a single reading, look elsewhere. These poems explode in your mind, but slowly.Read more ›
Though her poems benefit from the gentle manner in which she places her words on a page, such placement is restricted by the format of a reviewer's note. But the only way to truly appreciate just how wondrous is the poetry of Natasha Trethewey is to quote some of her work:
The unknown artist has rendered the father a painter and so
we see him at this work: painting a portrait of his wife -
their dark child watching nearby, a servant grinding colors
in the corner. The woman poses just beyond his canvas
and cannot see her likeness, her less than mirror image
coming to life beneath his hand. He has rendered her
homely, so unlike the woman we see in this scene, dressed
in late-century fashion, a `chicqueador' - mark of beauty
in the shape of a crescent moon - affixed to her temple.
If I say his painting is unfinished, that he has yet to make her
beautiful, to match the elegant sweep of her hair,
the graceful tilt of her head, has yet to adorn her dress
with lace and trim, it is only one way to see it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an extraordinary book! It delights, stimulates and brings me to places I know exist, but hadn't discovered.Published 5 months ago by Elizabeth Vrenios
Natasha Trethewey was the product of a mixed marriage – a white father and a black mother – in the state of Mississippi. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Hal
Accessible compared to most poetry; often powerful. Some individual poems were so moving I want to read them to everyone I know, yet the book also works a whole. Read morePublished 21 months ago by John
Trethewey has managed to author poetry which enthralled even me, skeptic and pessimist that I am when it comes to the genre. Bravo, completely lives up to the title!Published on June 26, 2014 by Sara
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Trethewey in 2006. she is such a talented poet. She talked about writing this book then. i am so glad so completed it. Read morePublished on May 22, 2014 by Erykah
Intelligent is the word. Thrall by Natasha Trethewey is a carefully selected volume of the history of mixed heritage in the New World and America. How new? Who knew? Read morePublished on August 26, 2013 by Allen Hagar
Suitable for eReaders: Yes
For those of you who have not read Ms. Read more