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Native Guard

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,617 ratings  ·  348 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 March 1st 2006)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Natasha Trethewey is the southern born daughter of an African American mother and white father at a time when such relations were illegal. Her parents were married in Canada and lived for a time in California, but the pull of the south brought them home. Yet, racism reared its ugly head and the couple divorced, but not before molding a daughter who would later go on to be named Poet Laureate of the United States. Today, Trethewey is a professor of creative writing at Emory University. Her poetry ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2011 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
Steven Godin
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it


Not the fleeting bruises she'd cover
with makeup, a dark patch as if imprint
of a scope she'd pressed her eye too close too,
looking for a way out, nor the quiver
in the voice she'd steady, leaning
into a pot of bones on the stove. Not
the teeth she wore in place of her own, or
the official document — its seal
and smeared signature — fading already,
the edges wearing. Not the tiny marker
with its dates, her name, abstract as history.
Only the landscape of her body — splintered
clavicle, pie
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
B. P. Rinehart
" The Daughters of the Confederacy
has placed a plaque here, at the fort’s entrance—
each Confederate soldier’s name raised hard
in bronze; no names carved for the Native Guards—
2nd Regiment, Union men, black phalanx.
What is monument to their legacy?
- Third stanza of "Elegy for the Native Guards"

This is a very intensely focused volume of poetry about Natasha Trethewey, her mother, her parents, and her hometown and the state of Mississippi. The book is named after the first black solders to officia
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetshere
In my dream,
the ghost of history lies down beside me,

rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.

I am aware of that heft. I feel by contemplation. I don't think it crushes me with any immediacy. I am a white guy in the middle of nowhere. My wife tells me nightly about being in an immigrant in the same location. The endless jokes about accents. The questions, the notes on Trump she's asked to endure. The sneers.

I was introduced to the author by my departing CEO. I won't forget that. The themes of thi
Jan 03, 2013 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
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“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 year
Phil Jensen
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A strong cycle of poems sparked by the death of Trethewey's mother and research into Civil War history. Woven through these topics are reflections on race in American history and Trethewey's experience of growing up biracial. I found the parts about her mother and personal biography to be a little stronger than the parts on the Civil War, which were well-researched but still felt a bit second-hand.

Trethewey's style is concise and impactful. She gracefully connects imagery and ideas. She uses a v
Trethewey writes beautifully disciplined verse about her mixed-race upbringing in Mississippi, her mother’s death and the South’s legacy of racial injustice. She occasionally rhymes, but more often employs forms that involve repeated lines or words. The title sequence concerns a black Civil War regiment in Louisiana. Two favorites from this Pulitzer-winning collection by a former U.S. poet laureate were “Letter” and “Miscegenation”; stand-out passages include “In my dream, / the ghost of history ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I’ve read Native Guard three times now. It is very brief, even with notes it doesn’t reach 50 pages. Despite its brevity it is so richly compelling a collection that while you may well read it one sitting it will still take many more readings to finish. The book is remarkably expansive, starting in its three parts with the personal and familial, then moving to the national and historical in its second part, before concluding with a set of poems where personal and historical are combined. The col ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
สมควรแล้วที่ได้ Pulitzer เพราะนี่คือหนึ่งในกวีนิพนธ์ที่ลุ่มลึกที่สุดในวรรณกรรมอเมริกัน

Trethewey ร้อยเรียงบทกวีเกี่ยวกับประวัติศาสตร์สหรัฐฯ ช่วงสงครามกลางเมือง (ที่ถูกฝังไว้ ไม่มีใครยอมพูดถึง) และประสบการณ์ส่วนตัวผสานเป็นเอกภาพกวีนิพนธ์ ใช้ภาษาเรียบง่าย ว่าด้วยความรัก ความเกลียดชัง ความงาม ความอัปลักษณ์ แบบที่ไม่มีใครทำได้ลึกซึ้งเท่า

โคลงบทแรกเริ่มด้วย “You can get there from here, though / there’s no going home.” พออ่านจบแล้วมาสำรวจตัวเองอีกครั้งจะพบว่าเป็นแบบที่กวีพูดไว้จริง ๆ คนอ่านเป็นแบบไหนต
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Native Guard is by Pulitzer Prize winner and US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Her father named her after Tolstoy's character Natasha in War and Peace she says in the poem Miscegenation which is included in the collection. Born in 1966, Trethewey's parents were a black woman and a white man, and their marriage was illegal in her native state of Mississippi. They had to flee to Ohio to be wed. She also tells about this in the poem Miscegenation.

The title Native Guard refers to the first black
Claudia Putnam
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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'
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads, poetry
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
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mississippi Library Commission
Natasha Trethewey is simply one of the greatest poets this country has ever known. Native Guard is breathtaking in its simplicity. These are beautiful poems that will haunt you long after you've finished reading them. Highly recommended. ...more
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a short yet powerful collection of poems about pieces of the author’s life, pieces of the history and present of the American South, and how they intertwine. It can be a quick read if you make it so, though I found myself pausing frequently to reflect upon what I just read. For poems I’ve returned to, I’ve noticed things I didn’t see the first time, and there could be a lot more to uncover with further study. I recommend reading this, and reading it out loud.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i feel like i need to go hug my mum right now.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, newtome2019
thoughts coming shortly
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readingwomen18
I understand that many of these poems are about grief, identity, and a fort of black soldiers in the Civil War, but how the collection made me FEEL was that I was sitting at the table with Natasha Trethewey, maybe having coffee, and she was sharing photographs with me- giving me personal glimpses into her life. And I was grateful she shared.
Dana Sweeney
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This collection comes in three parts. The first and last parts — meditations on Trethewey’s Family past and present — worked extremely well for me as a reader. Though the volume is slim, it is filled with heavy hitting poems meditating on race and biraciality and the omnipresence of history in the Deep South. The first and last sections were so good that they literally stopped me in my tracks and forced me to reread them again and again. Treasures like “Genus Narcissus,” “What the Body Can Say,” ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aj Sterkel
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Natasha Trethewey is a former United States Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. She’s biracial and grew up in America’s Deep South. In Native Guard, she writes about her childhood and the racial history of the South.

This collection is probably a good starting point for people who are new to poetry. Most of the poems are narrative. The language is beautiful but not unnecessarily complex. The collection is divided into three sections. My favorite section is the first one, where the aut
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Jul 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Poetry. Poems, beautiful and clear, interesting forms. Set in Mississippi from the perspective of a woman with a black mother and a white father. The title poem refers to the first regiment of black soldiers in the Union Army. Also recommended by this poet: Bellocq's Ophelia and Domestic Work. ...more
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Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: poetry
I don't think I will ever be able to read a poem written by Trethewey without being touched and or inspired. ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Native Guard - Natasha Trethewey - Sue 1 11 Jul 31, 2014 01:47PM  

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Natasha Trethewey 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 directs the Creative Writi

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“I returned
to a field of cotton, hallowed ground —

as slave legend goes — each boll
holding the ghosts of generations:

those who measured their days
by the heft of sacks and lengths

of rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plants
still sewn into our clothes.”
“In my dream,
the ghost of history lies down beside me,

rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.”
More quotes…