Native Guard
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Native Guard

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,378 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Through elegiac verse that honors her mother and tells of her own fraught childhood, Natasha Trethewey confronts the racial legacy of her native Deep South -- where one of the first black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards, was called into service during the Civil War. Trethewey's resonant and beguiling collection is a haunting conversation between personal experience...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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Amanda
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...more
Douglas Feil
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...more
Teresa
Aug 12, 2011 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 from me. 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 w...more
Sue
Jul 25, 2012 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
J.
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
Dolly
Jan 04, 2013 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Serena
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
Bonny
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...more
Hattie
Oct 15, 2010 Hattie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Martha
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...more
Mona
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...more
Lisa
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...more
Warnie B.
Feb 16, 2014 Warnie B. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Warnie B. by: Douglas Feil
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
Stef
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
Maria
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
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.
Karen Seefelt
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.
Asma Fedosia
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.
Cat
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.
Helen
Native Guard takes its title from the 2nd Regiment, a regiment of Union soldiers during the Civil War made up of newly freed slaves. Stationed at Ship Island to guard Confederate prisoners, during the battle of Port Hudson, they were fired upon by white Union soldiers as they retreated. It's one of those awful footnotes of the Civil War that most people don't want to talk about.

In comes Natasha Trethewey to write poetry for these men who died, whose own country refused to bury them after the ba...more
Jennifer Hughes
Apparently I have been out of the poetry scene a while since I had never heard of Natasha Trethewey, who was Poet Laureate in 2013. What a stunning little book of poetry. Natasha, you had me at hello.

These are poems for everyone.

Trethewey delves unflinchingly into her relationship with her mother, her mixed racial heritage, and issues of the South and Civil War. Her honesty is raw and personal and lovely. She does clever things with form and repetition that left me in awe when I realized the t...more
Thomas King
This book was required reading for a literature class, or I likely never would've read it. There are some very thought-provoking poems in "Native Guard." If you're looking for poetry that represents the harsh realities of the Civil War--the harsh realities of the rarely mentioned oppressed--then you'll like what Trethewey has put together. Not every poem as directly to do with the Civil War; some have to do with personal identity. All in all, it's a good read, and reading the notes in the back h...more
Buffy Hamilton
Breathtaking, haunting, brilliant.
Jeff Crompton
To any thoughtful Southerner, living here in our native place is a strange experience. For many of us, our feelings swing between pride, shame, and disbelief at the history of our region, and at what our fellow Southerners say and do every day. I suspect that Natasha Trethewey, born in Mississippi of a black mother and a white father, feels "the duality of the Southern thing" stronger than most of us down here.

About half of the poems in Native Guard are about the South and its proud and shamefu...more
Claire
The cool thing about being an English major is that you get to read so many books that you normally wouldn’t pick up. This collection of poetry by the United States’ current poet laureate is definitely something I never would have considered even looking at if it weren’t for my Southern Women Writers course.

See the reason I wouldn’t have picked this book out for myself is that I hate poetry. Okay, that’s not completely true. Hate is a strong word and I don’t hate all poetry. For me it’s just tha...more
Sandra
Trethewey has the ability to sift historic documents down to the essentials and use them to capture the immediacy of an era, even a century later. In the title poem, her economy of line and form intensifies the underlying horror and suffering of Civil War events recorded in the even-handed voice of a diarist, who is a soldier in the Louisiana Native Guard, one of the black regiments of the Union Army. This writer uses a diary he finds in a Confederate home, and writes in the space above the line...more
Sean Endymion
My previous encounter with Trethewey’s poetry did not turn out well; I was fairly disappointed with Domestic Work’s obsession with the many clichés of “blackness” instead of focusing on the human element of what it meant to be black in the early to mid-1900s. Part III of that collection picks up and (as I wrote previously) “doesn’t zealously throw blackness in my face, but organically develops an emotional connection,” but that section alone was not enough to save the book.

I am pleased to admit...more
Danielle
A beautiful set of poetry. I've never read anything by this author but in general, I love poems that tell intricate stories all on their own. Even though each poem was published separately (from what I can tell of the author's acknowledgments), every single one works cohesively with others and yet, manages to speak volumes about matters of prejudice, interracial relationships, mother-daughter bonds, and the importance of where one comes from. In all honesty though, it might be a while before rea...more
Robert Beveridge
Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

The problem with Natasha Trethewey's third collection, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007, is the same as the problem with her second collection, Bellocq's Ophelia, which did not: it's too darn short. That's not something I say about many books of poetry; a single-author collection that stretches more than ninety pages or thereabouts tends to wear. But there are a handful of currently-working poets whose every book is too short...more
Christina
The most beautifully structured slim volume of poetry I've read, since I started paying attention to such things. The foot of each poem mortised to the head of the next, Trethewey's manuscript creates a frieze of images and ideas in perfectly logical progression. Beautifully crafted, intelligent, measured. The title sequence of sonnets, "Native Guard," a tour de force in itself.

Unfortunately, I've grown to loathe death poetry, and this manuscript is heavily weighted with them, in fact the entir...more
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