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4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  662 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
The stunning follow-up volume to her 2007 Pulitzer Prize–winning Native Guard, by America’s new Poet Laureate

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 i
Hardcover, 84 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,593)
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Mar 10, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, history
When I see Frank's photograph
of a white infant in the dark arms
of a woman who must be the maid,
I think of my mother and the year
we spent alone - my father at sea.

Born to a black mother and a white father, Poet Laureate (2012-14) Natasha Trethewey's poems explore history through a personal and racial lens, while still managing to remain inclusive. How does it feel, to be the child of an interracial family, and most importantly, what does this mean when viewing the history of the American fabric
Aug 20, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing
The first half of Trethewey's earlier work, Native Guard, consists of poems about her mother. Here, about half of the poems are in some way about her father: their separations; their connections, through fishing, through story.

The other half, the ekphrastic poetry, reflects upon identity, in general terms and in particular ones, in relation to her father mostly, but also to her mother and of course herself.

There's the connection she sees between Help, 1968, a photograph by Walker-Evans-influen
Jan 10, 2015 Douglas rated it it was amazing
Until I'm convinced otherwise, I think Natasha Trethewey is the greatest living poet in America. (This is my personal opinion, of course.) Her collection Native Guard was one of the top books I read in 2014 and certainly the best poetry collection I read. At the end of this year, I expect Thrall to be in the top as well.

Here, Trethewey examines personal history, race, and the colonial views of interracial relationships depicted in art. Trethewey was born to a black mother and white father and r
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Jan 26, 2013 Maurice Carlos Ruffin rated it really liked it
I purchased my copy when Ms. Trethewey read at the main New Orleans Public Library in December of 2012. I didn't buy the book simply because I was impressed by the way she read the collection (I was) or because of how cool it was to get a book signed by the current Poet Laureate of the United States (it was pretty cool). I got Thrall because I was intrigued by the conceit behind it: a "mixed race" person dissects the historical attitudes of western culture toward such people and, occasionally, u ...more
Oct 02, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
A radio interview I heard with the newest U.S. Poet Laureate caught my attention so I approached this slim book eagerly even though I am not a regular reader of poetry. In spite of my inexperience Natasha Trethewey’s poems often moved and in some cases captivated me. Many of the early poems in the book explore the historical contexts of Trethewey’s mixed race heritage by detailed and nuanced examinations of colonial era paintings with multi-race families, paintings that were designed to illustra ...more
Robert Beveridge
Aug 16, 2012 Robert Beveridge rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, really.
Natasha Trethewey, Thrall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

Politicized poetry—and when I say “politicized”, I'm not just talking flat-out political poetry here, but also what one might call “the poetry of social consciousness”—is always a problematic thing. One hundred percent of the time. So much so that back when I was still a working poet and thus entitled in some small way to comment on such things and offer advice t
Sherry Chandler
Dec 25, 2013 Sherry Chandler rated it really liked it
Shelves: thepoets, history
In her introduction to the 1996 edition of The Best American Poetry, Adrienne Rich said:

Given the extreme racialization of our social and imaginative life, it’s a peculiar kind of alienation that presumes race and racism (always linked to power) will haunt poets of “color” only. Like riches and poverty, like anti-Semitism, whiteness and color have a mythic life that uncontrollably infiltrates poetic language even when unnamed . . . The assumptions behind "white" identity in a violently racialize
Apr 08, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The opening poem, Elegy, for her father, is one of many powerful pieces in this collection.

How the Past Comes Back

Like a shadow across a stone,
gradually --
the name it darkens;

as one enters the world
through language --
like a child learning to speak
then naming
everything; as flower,

the neglected hydrangea
endlessly blossoming --
year after year
each bloom a blue refrain; as

the syllables of birdcall
coalescing in the trees,
a single word:

as the dead bird's bright signature --
JD Estrada
Some poetry makes you think, other makes you feel. This collection is an interesting project but it was often a challenge to see how I should read the poem. I love that to get the best feeling of some pieces you need to see the work of art it's inspired by, but I can't say I always resonated with the poems. I'm not sure if it's just that I didn't connect on this first read or if it's something that will always hover just beyond my grasp. It's not so much that I didn't get what Natasha was writin ...more
Thing Two
Her poem "Enlightenment", about touring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello with her father, is priceless.
Khara House
Dec 01, 2012 Khara House rated it it was amazing
In this slender collection of poems, Trethewey takes us backward and forward in time, establishing Thrall as a collection as much about past as it is about present---or rather, how the two are inextricably linked through history, through identity, and in discovering truth and self and meaning. The collection’s first poem, “Elegy,” reflects the poet’s longing---a sometimes ruthless longing---to make sense of and (re)discover the world.

As the child of a black woman and white man, Trethewey boldly
Aug 28, 2016 Alarie rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
About half of the poems are ekphrastic, looking at Western paintings that deal with race, particularly couples of mixed race or black servants or mothers with fairer children as a means at looking at attitudes of the world as well as how Tretheway’s own life with a black mother and white father are reflected. The title poem is about Juan de Pareja, the slave of Diego Velazquez who learned to paint from watching his master, but who wasn’t allowed to practice his art. He sold his own paintings aft ...more
Aug 08, 2016 Robert rated it it was amazing
What a great book. Natasha Trethewey was Poet Laureate of the United States for two years around 2012. Her father was a white Canadian poet; her mother a black woman from Louisiana. When Tretheway was young, her father left her mother. This book is about coming to terms with all that. For example, the Spanish had a strict and detailed caste system when they came to this country. Whites were rated higher than natives, who were higher than blacks. All the possible intermarriages were also ranked. ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Sally rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The music, the insight, the merging of history and family with such painful, illuminating rigor, and in such compelling images--I loved everything about this collection.
Nancy Groves
May 25, 2016 Nancy Groves rated it really liked it
This is an outstanding collection of poetry, exploring race through the lens of her family (black mother, white father) as well as through art. Many of the poems are reflections arising from her viewing of works of art, such as the many depictions of a "myth of the miracle transplant" in which two early Christian martyrs, twin physicians, removed the leg of an Ethiopian man and grafted it to the body of a white man after amputating his diseased leg. "One man always low, in a grave or on the grou ...more
Kate (yorick)
Mar 08, 2016 Kate (yorick) rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I was so excited to get to this collection after anticipating it for quite some time, and it definitely didn't let me down.

In this collection, Trethewey explores her relationship with her white father through recollecting moments of quiet domesticity and trips to historical sites in the US. Additionally, she draws inspiration from paintings (particularly the Casta paintings of colonial Hispanic America) and photography, which depict mixed-raced or dark-skinned women, and draws connections betwee
Sean Endymion
Nov 12, 2012 Sean Endymion rated it it was amazing
Thrall is stunning; the poems themselves, the theme and collection, the voice, the ekphrasis, the personal – everything just works with Trethewey’s latest book. In contrast to Domestic Work’s rigidness and telling-style, Thrall is alive within its ekphrastic constraint; even Native Guard, which I felt was fantastic, does not quite stand up to the completeness I feel when reading this collection. As a reader, I feel included and intimate with the speaker (something that was missing from DM), as w ...more
Jul 13, 2013 K rated it it was amazing
AMAZING!! Trethewey covers, with almost academic skill and depth, the depth and mazes not only of race in the Americas ( some of her most brilliant poems are set in Spanish colonies, addressing the Spanish "system" of classifying race and mixed race) but of personal emotional narratives as well. She also pulls from art history brilliantly throughout the collection, at one point describing the painting on the book's cover in a poem addressing the 'mestizo/a', the now-outdated term a mixed child b ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I got to read an advance copy of Natasha Trethewey's upcoming book Thrall by signing up on Thanks to Mark Letcher for telling me about the website.

* * *

Natasha Trethewey, the newest U.S. poet laureate, uses Casta paintings and ekphrastic poetry to examine what it means to be mixed race, to be wanted and forgotten, accepted and disowned, in her forthcoming collection, Thrall. Throughout this slim volume she also reflects on the relationship with her poet father, who now lives in Ca
Jul 24, 2012 Grady rated it it was amazing
Natasha Trethewey, the Timeless Poet

2007 Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey gifts us with this rather extraordinary collection of poems that explore relationships between parent and child in a marriage of two people from different cultures: Trethewey is the mixed race progeny of a white father (a poet) and a darker skinned Mexican mother. This platform provides a complex stage setting for discussions of heritage, depth of cultural bonds and influences, and a particularly fine examinat
Oct 15, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it
The title of this book is appropriate. Poetry is a way to work things out, and Trethewey has been in thrall to her mixed race (Black mother, white father) heritage from the beginning of her highly successful (for a poet)career. The book begins with an elegy to poet's father. Like Rita Dove and Elizabeth Alexander, Trethewey has a knack for discovering curious anecdotes and legends of Black history, through which she can view current race relations and her inner identity. "The Miracle of the Blac ...more
Mike Jensen
Aug 14, 2016 Mike Jensen rated it it was amazing
A great autobiographical collection of poems. Throughout the book, Trethewey grapples with her relationship with her father, still alive when this was written, and her mixed race family and life. The feelings are deep, and sometimes troubling. In many poems, Trethewey uses paintings of mixed race people as a means to reflect on her own life. These poems are fine on their own, but have much more depth if you google the paintings referenced. DO look at them before, during, and after reading those ...more
Scott Brennan
Jan 10, 2016 Scott Brennan rated it liked it
I liked many of the poems in this collection, especially "Elegy," which calls to mind Robert Hayden's famous poem about his father, "Those Winter Sundays." In fact, many of the poems in Thrall focus on Tretheway's relationship with her father, a complex dynamic leading to meditations on race--specifically, what it means to be black (or, in Thretheway's case, of mixed race) in America. This is fascinating, tense subject matter that unifies this rather brief collection--but I find there's a forced ...more
Anita Fajita Pita
Jun 24, 2016 Anita Fajita Pita rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
There were maybe four pieces that I very much appreciated. Enlightenment, Taxonomy, a couple others. Commentary on the mixed race child.
Alice Lippart
Aug 17, 2016 Alice Lippart rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2015
An interesting collection, though perhaps not exactly my cup of tea.
Sincerae Smith
This is the third collection of poems I've read by Natasha Trethewey who is the current United States Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize Winner and Poet Laureate of Mississippi. Thrall was a little slow going for me at the beginning unlike her prose and poetry work Beyond Katrina and the poetry collection Native Guard.

Thrall means "slave." The book's jacket is a reproduction of a casta painting. Casta is a word from the Iberian Peninsula and means "mixed race." Casta paintings were produced dur
Jun 15, 2013 A.M. rated it liked it
Thrall is a tightly-themed collection of poems that focuses on the author coming to emotional terms with her mixed heritage, in particular the relationship with her white father who at some point separated from her black mother and remarried. The reader gets the sense that there was deep-seated bigotry and even shame on the part of Trethewey's father that has scarred her to this day.

A "thrall" is a person in bondage - a slave. Many of the poems explore a set of "casta" paintings by Juan Rodrigue
Bob Lopez
Jan 17, 2013 Bob Lopez rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2012 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A beautiful collection. However, there is one theme that bothers me and prevents me from giving this 5 stars. In "Enlightment" the author writes, " a mans pursuit of knowledge is greater/than his shortcomings, the limits of his vision," and in other poems she describes the earlier eras of science such as anatomy ("Miracle of the Black Leg," "Knowledge," and "The Americans," but despite the supposed insight that cooler, objective pursuits would render, the reader is left with more of a visceral, ...more
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Thrall by Natasha Trethewey 3 31 Sep 27, 2012 07:30PM  
  • Slow Lightning
  • Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys
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  • Space, in Chains
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
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  • When My Brother Was an Aztec
  • Our Andromeda
  • Incarnadine: Poems
  • Bender: New and Selected Poems
  • Caribou: Poems
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  • One with Others: [a little book of her days]
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Natasha Trethewey (born April 26, 1966) is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also dire
More about Natasha Trethewey...

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“A man's pursuit of knowledge is greater than his shortcomings, the limits of his vision.” 4 likes
“What's left is palimpsest—one memory bleeding into another, overwriting it.” 4 likes
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