Thursday, August 01, 2013

Review: Thrall: Poems by Natasha Trethewey

I was first introduce to Natasha's Trethewey work through this book, Thrall. The poems contained herein are a study, both personal and historical, of race, race mixing and the personal history of a biracial background. Throughout the body of work contained in this book, Trethewey (poet laureate of the US 2012-2013) explores her relationship with her white father through poems that describe personal events but, also through poems that focus on paintings called "castas" and other works on the subject. It is very important to look up the appropriate painting or work so as to get a better understanding of the poetry.

It has been a while since I have liked poetry so much that I wanted to quote it on the review. This is one such book. As we move throughout the book, in 'Enlightenment', we are presented with the the idea that "the improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites". This was a poem about a portrain of President Jefferson. In is in this juxtaposition between history and present that Trethewey issues direct commentary in her father, that he "could believe he'd made [her] better.

There are some very vivid and poignant images as we see in 'Bird in the House'. A dead black bird is found, probably left by the cat. During this poem she navigates through her grief at her mother's death (at the hands of her second husband) and her father's remarriage. The black bird, now a representation of her dead mother, is burried by her father. As she is "searching for meaning in everything [he does]", Trethewey's pain is felt as she watches her father, with her back to her, burying the bird, flattening the mound, "erasing it into the dirt". It is a very simple yet poignant passage that drives home her troubled relationship by her father, as if he has erased a part of her identity.

I am fascinated by her simple and direct allegory. What she lacks in lyricism and metaphorical imagenery, she makes up for in direct and poignant critique.

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