Natasha Trethewey's poems are at once deeply personal and historical--exploring her own interracial and complicated roots--and utterly American, connecting them to ours. Read more...
Natasha Trethewey's 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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-08-20
- Reviewer: Staff
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 Velázquez'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 Velázquez'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.)