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Thrall

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  507 ratings  ·  91 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
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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 1,226)
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Cheryl
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
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Teresa
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
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Douglas
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
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Maurice Carlos Ruffin
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
Jaylia3
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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Sherry Chandler
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
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Laura
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,
repeating
a single word:
forgets;

as the dead bird's bright signature --
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Thing Two
Her poem "Enlightenment", about touring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello with her father, is priceless.
Khara House
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
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Alarie
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
Sally
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.
Mike Jensen
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. This 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 poems a ...more
Sincerae
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
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Sean Endymion
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
K
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
Jason
I got to read an advance copy of Natasha Trethewey's upcoming book Thrall by signing up on NetGalley.com. 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
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A.M.
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
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Grady
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
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Ann
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
Bob Lopez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joseph
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
Maria
"Thrall" is marked by luxurious language, intensity of intellect, and troubling insight. It is a disturbingly gorgeous collection of poems that assaults cliches on race, family, history, personhood. The language is so sparse, it's like a stallion: sleek and muscular and instantly admirable. Some examples:

"mist at the banks like a net / settling around us"

"the boy's mother contorts, watchful / her neck twisting on its spine, red beads / yoked at her throat like a necklace of blood / her face so b
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Naomi
I would have to say that this is among the best collections of poetry I have ever read. I loved NATIVE GUARD, but THRALL is even better.I devoured it on the way home from the Decatur Book Festival, where I had the good fortune of hearing Tretheway read. (She was the keynote speaker.) I don't think I paused for breath during the flight, and the work has stayed with me like a vibrant force resonating beneath my skin.

The collection is in many ways a memoir of linked poems, many ekphrastic explorati
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Lynetta
Trethewey's father was white, her mother black. She is drawn to images in paintings with this motif. In "Miracle of the Black Leg" "physician-saints Cosmas and Damian and the myth of the miracle transplant-black donor, white recipient date back to the mid-fourteenth century"(p. 9) "the doctors harvest the leg from a man, four days dead..." "the black leg grafted to his thigh."

She also is engaged in poems to her father. The tension in their relationship is evident.



Serena
Thrall by Natasha Trethewey examines the lines between father and daughter and the African-American experience through a set of personal and analytical poems focused on race and culture. In “Miracle of the Black Leg,” Trethewey examines the juxtaposition of white and black men in paintings and other artwork in which the leg of one man is taken and attached to the thigh of another man. There are similarities in pain stricken faces in some images, paralleling their similar situations, but there ar ...more
Helen
I love Natasha Trethewey's poetry, and Thrall does not disappoint. Using historical accounts and the Casta paintings of colonial Mexico, the poet weaves a personal exploration of race.

The most haunting of these is Miracle of the Black Leg, documenting in poetic form the myth that a white limb could be successfully replaced by a black one. A poem in three parts, the first end with the line:

Even now, it stays with us: when we mean to uncover
the truth, we dig, say unearth.

And this collection unear
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Tammy
This is the follow-up volume of poetry to Trethewey's 2007 Pulitzer Prize–winning Native Guard and it clearly shows why she is the new Poet Laurette of the United States.

She beautifully blends her personal family history into the history of America, especially the deep south. She is an interracial child, when a black woman and white man marrying was not only dangerous but illegal in her parents home state. She uses her poetry to show the struggles of not only southern America but of many forgot
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Marjorie Jensen
This is a fantastic book (as is her earlier book, Native Guard, which I read about six years ago). Natasha Trethewey's writing is superb. I am inspired by her use of ekphrasis to explore the lives of multiracial people, and moved by her poems about her relationship with her father. I think my favorite poem is the one about marginalia--"Illumination."
Libby
I'm not sure if this collection is slightly less exquisite than Native Guard, or if it was just a more difficult collection for me to read. It touches on Trethewey's relationship with her father, which seems more fraught than that with her mother, and it also has even more historical background than Native Guard did.

Many of the poems in Thrall are inspired by paintings, and I wish prints of all the paintings could have been included. Themes of race and racism definitely continue.

Poems from this
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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
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“A man's pursuit of knowledge is greater than his shortcomings, the limits of his vision.” 4 likes
“what knowledge haunts each body, what history, what phantom ache?” 3 likes
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