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Native Guard

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  2,175 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
A daughter of the American South and a child of an interracial marriage that defied a law still on the books in 1966 Mississippi, Natasha Trethewey does not shy away from the difficult themes that plague the region’s past. At the spine of this collection is the forgotten story of the Louisiana Native Guards, one of the first black regiments called into service during the C ...more
Kindle Edition, 64 pages
Published (first published 2006)
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Nov 02, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard is (I swear) one of the BEST collections of poetry I have read in a long time.

This collection is seemingly simple. The language is clear, stripped down, and imagistic. The narratives are straightforward and very easy to follow, especially for those who don't read much poetry "because it is hard to understand."

But for those who LOVE poetry and understand it, Native Guard is virtually flawless. Each poem is layered in so many different ways one could read the book
Jul 05, 2015 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Natasha Trethewey was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2012 to 2014. During those years she was a regular presence on public television, appearing on “Where Poetry Lives,” a series aired on PBS’s The News Hour. Those wonderful segments are still available online: Trethewey became the Poet Laureate of Mississippi in 2012 and still retains that post.

Native Guard is Trethewey’s third book of poetry; first published in 2006, it won the Pulitzer f
Jul 08, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Sue
4 and 1/2 stars

The first section of poems dealing with the author's mother (and her death) gets 5 stars. I loved the poems individually and as a whole. Whenever I read a poem, I read it at least twice. The second time is to let the words wash over me, as the first time the content is unfamiliar and I can only seem to focus at first on what the poem says and not how it sounds and flows. These poems were impressive during both readings.

Perhaps because I loved the first section so much, I was sligh
Jan 28, 2014 Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this over two days and most of the poems several times over. The blurbs on the back point out her "elegiac verse that honors her mother and father". Another blurb states, "Trethewey serves our profound need for that rare thing - artistically fine Civil War poetry."

Sure, there's elegies and a few may include the Civil War as a backdrop, but these poems are so much more. They are some of the most deeply American poems I've read. But even more, they evoked a sense of what it means to be hum
Jul 25, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry readers and lovers, those who'd like to try some poetry
This is a wonderful book of poems. The author writes of black regiments during the Civil War, her experiences as a mixed race child in Mississippi, her parents' marriage. It's a short but packed volume and I highly recommend it to poetry lovers and general readers who would like to try poetry.
Feb 06, 2015 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.”--Theories of Time and Space

Trethewey’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems has language crystal-cut—sharp, hard, clear, exquisite—with a bordering restraint. These stories are about memory, her own and those of her people. These poems are not just, not only, about race. Who are her people? They are us.
“in sleep, their bodies curved—parentheses…”--Southern Gothic

The longest poem in this slim book, Native Guard, spans the war ye
Jan 04, 2013 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of poetry
I received this book as a Christmas present from our oldest. We both really like poetry, so she picked this one out for me. It's a poignant collection of poems that span over a hundred years of American history, filled with raw emotions and vivid imagery. I had never really heard of Natasha Trethewey before nor had I heard about her Pulitzer Prize-winning work.

Overall, it's a quick read and an interesting insight into one woman's history as well as the racial conflicts in America going as far b
May 17, 2013 Nan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is easy to read, approachable. Parts, though, are forgettable. It does feel as if Trethewey barely scratches the intensity of the subject. Race affects us all. Somehow some of these poems feel merely personal, like they affect the author only. Formal poetry can escape me. The ghazals got on my nerves and seemed heavy handed. I did like "After Your Death" very much. I wish there had been more of the Native Guard and poems like "Pilgrimmage". Those are pieces which I will remember and to ...more
Claudia Putnam
Jan 15, 2015 Claudia Putnam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Trethewey's tremendous strength is her merging of the lyric and the narrative such that work feels perfectly balanced and seamless.

Why the rough edge of beauty? she asks, in Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971.

...Why remember anything
but the wonder of those few days,

the iced trees, each in its leafy case?
The picture we took that first morning,
the front yard a beautiful, strange place--

why on the back has someone made a list
of our names, the date, the event: nothing
of what's inside--mother, stepfather'
Jan 22, 2012 Bonny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to come back and read this again, something about it gets under your skin and remains. She is fearless. She weaves her own personal story among stories of the nation's past, tackling issues of love, death, abuse, interracial marriage, racial identity, racism, civil war and Reconstruction to name a few. Each poem is a strong voice in a larger conversation, and all packaged together make a powerful impression.

What is Evidence

Not the fleeting bruises she'd cover
with makeup, a dark patch as
Oct 15, 2009 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2009-reads
Do you know what I hate? I mean besides mayonnaise? I hate jazz "best-of's." Some record exec. will cobble together 13 of Coltrane's "greatest" hits and sell it at Target. You pop it in your car and bop around like you're hip. The tracks move from Blue Train to Pursuance and leave you wondering why Coltrane got all weird. Well, you're not hip, you're a sucker. Sure, the tracks are good. But, listen to them along with the rest of their sibling tracks on the original album and suddenly, their GREA ...more
Oct 15, 2010 Hattie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hattie by: Wilhelmina Jenkins
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey is filled with poems about American History and Natasha Tretheway's personal history. I asked myself this question. Is it possible to separate myself from history larger than life or is it a part of my smaller world? Ms. Tretheway gives a quote spoken by Frederick Douglass. "If this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all things sacred what shall men remember?" I think my question has been answered by an ancestor who is still alive in my soul every time ...more
I came across this book while perusing the Favorite Poets of Color list. After learning that Natasha Trethewey is the current U.S. Poet Laureate, I requested it from the library.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on Trethewey's grief after the death of her mother, the second dips into the racial history of Mississippi, her home state, and the third section melds the previous sections together with its focus on her childhood and coming of age as the daughter of a
Feb 25, 2008 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd already requested this book from the library when a friend of mine said she thought it was "ordinary," yet it's won the Pulitzer Prize. I was interested in exploring this possible discrepancy.

The book's language IS pretty simple, sometimes even simplistic, but Trethewey has written some skilled poems in form, including a ghazal. The poems includes some compelling content (interracial marriage in the civil-rights-era south, racism, the Louisiana Native Guard) that would have helped it stand o
C. Derick
Aug 02, 2015 C. Derick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read all four of Tretheway's books of poetry since I started reading her in graduate school ten years ago. I am not normally the prime audience for narrative poetry cycles like this, but Tretheway's ability to embody and encapsulate the complications of the history of the southern US and race relations speak to me deeply. Tretheway's gift for overlaying biography and history in a way that illuminate both, and while this does lead to a seeming uneven nature to the voice and wordplay of the ...more
Dec 06, 2012 Serena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, is sliced into three sections with the first section paying homage to a mother who has passed from this world into the next. In “The Southern Crescent,” travel plays a particularly prominent role, with the train “humming like anticipation” as the narrator and her mother travel east and she sees her mother in the window clearly. Trethewey’s poems are concise and filled with imagery that anyone can connect with on a visceral lev ...more
May 24, 2013 Martha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
OK, Natasha Trethewey is officially now my favorite current poet. I’ve learned since reading her last book that her mother was murdered when she was fairly young, and see more clearly how she both embraces but keeps a certain distance as she writes about her mother.

Part I is poems about her mother and her mother’s death. “Southern Crescent,” recalls two train rides – or is it three - her mother took from Mississippi, all of which ended is some sort of disappointment: “Today/she is sure we can l
Feb 16, 2014 Lara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lara by: Douglas
I'm really not a big poetry reader, but I liked this collection a lot--the way Trethewey explores the history of black Civil War soldiers, and being from the South, and loss... Native Guard and Myth are my favorites--the repetitions in those two poems really work for me, the way the same words said again mean something slightly different the second time, and build on each other. Really powerful. I'm probably not going to go run out and start reading poetry all over the place because of this book ...more
Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard is a simple, but heartfelt, and somehow nonjudgmental examination of what it meant to be the object of abuse in a time and environment of bigotry. I admire her skill as a writer to convey such powerful images through such minuscule movements of diction and syntax. I admire her very much as person for her ability to produce such a tender, compassionate, and quiet piece in a space where rage and confusion would have been equally justified. Moving, beautiful, and br ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, reviewed
Her language is precise the way homemade bread is precise, versus the ambiguity of mass-produced loaves. She has a warm and delicious precision. The poetry is personal, haunting, important. Many are about growing up bi-racial in the South, or loss, or the pain of being an outsider. Yet she defies the easy way such subjects could turn critical, clinical, or cynical. I think I'd describe the tone as stern, brave and friendly. There's a simplicity to her technique that feels hospitable. I'd love to ...more
Janet Veil
Feb 27, 2015 Janet Veil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A remarkable, intimate collection.
Dec 05, 2015 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Trethewey! Colleagues and students rave about her poetry, and I found her lyricism and deceptively simple structure of her poetic line, that opens out into ambiguity, conflict, and pain very compelling. I found her mourning for her mother very powerful. For me, the first section--about her mother's disappointments, her abusive marriage, and her catastrophic and unexpected loss--was the most powerful. I loved the poem about not taking care of her mother's grave. I also loved the final se ...more
Tara Betts
I think this is Trethewey's strongest book yet, and I'm looking forward to her current book-in-progress. The combination of loss, historical poems interweaved closely with interracial identity and family memories in the childhood town where they all commingle is made even stronger by her use of form, which fascinates me more and more these days. The poem about cleaning her mother's house after her passing and trying to eat a fig from a tree in the front yard is breath-taking.
Scarlett Peterson
Sep 07, 2016 Scarlett Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sydney Goggins
Aug 13, 2016 Sydney Goggins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stellar collection of poems, many of them engaging with the complexities of American history and the ways it's remembered- or in some cases not remembered. Tretheway writes of the past with empathy and insight, trying to see events from the perspective of those who experienced them.

One of the most powerful poems is "Scenes from a Documentary History of Mississippi", which takes scenes from a documentary- distant from the viewer- and makes them more personalized, urging the reader to think abo
Michelle Cristiani
These words are full of beauty, but are specific enough as to be unrelatable for me personally. I do love how the book is in effect a life history. How brilliant to put your family history and childhood experience in a series of poems.
"After Your Death" is one of the loveliest things I've ever read. I would recommend the book for that alone. Trethewey is fantastic. But this particular volume hadn't moved me as much as others.
Karen Seefelt
Feb 25, 2013 Karen Seefelt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR by Diane Rehm. Hearing her speak about the difficulty of her childhood and death of her mother
made me go and buy the book. The poetry is very readable and heart felt. The author has much insight into her life and that of her family. I just got two other of her books to read.
A. Fedosia
Dec 14, 2012 A. Fedosia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetry about the role of black soldiers during the Civil War in Louisiana. More poems are set in Mississippi during the late-1960s. There, the author, daughter of racially mixed marriage, reflects upon her and her mother's lives.

http://poetnatashatrethewey.blogspot.... has information about this book and interviews with the author.
Oct 16, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I understand why Natasha Trethewey is the current Poet Laureate after reading this collection of poetry. She manipulates language in a way that makes the reader both contemplate their personal views on the subjects of racism, slavery, mortality, etc. and gets her point across in a more subtle, subversive way.
I was also a fan of the intertextual connections she made between the poems in her book, which made them seem like a single narrative (or three different ones-the death of her mother, the N
Sep 29, 2009 Cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting poems - I felt they were a little generic (all about her mom) until a closer reading showed more of her sentiment towards her life. A very interesting look at the relationship she felt for a women she seems to have seen as weak. An interesting way to memorialize your mother.
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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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