Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: Thrall- Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey's latest collection, Thrall, proves that punch in the gut poetry can still be written. She expands from her previous collection, Native Guard, about growing up in the Deep South with a black mother and a white father. Thrall is split evenly between descriptions of paintings, including the cover art and poems about her past and future with her family.

The whole collection goes down easy but not at the same time. The language is so simple but the aftertaste leaves the reader setting the book down and needing to sit for a moment after each poem. The poems sneak up on you long after you have read them.

For example, from Taxonomy:

"all her kind/in thrall to a word."

From the poem, Torna Atras:

"And you might see why, to understand/my father, I look again and again at this painting: how it is/that a man could love- and so diminish what he loves."

We get an amazing and intimate view of Trethewey's father, albeit unflattering in how he treated the poet and her mother. But even for his less than stellar descriptions, the reader can see the conflict the poet has with him; he is neither all good nor all bad, much like most people, especially parents. This is seen especially in the poem "Bird in the House";

"Forgive me/that I searched for meaning in everything/you did, that I watched you bury the bird/in the backyard-your back to me;"

And the points hit truly home in "Enlightenment":

"I'd follow my father from book/to if to prove/a man's pursuit of knowledge is greater/than his shortcomings, the limits of his vision."

Once again, Trethewey crafts a masterpiece of work, once that leaves the reader feeling as though they have walked away from a good meal; much to digest but incredibly savory taste still lingers.

Photo credit: David St.

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