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Native Guard

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  3,062 ratings  ·  297 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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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,062 ratings  ·  297 reviews

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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 f
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
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.
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
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
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
I remember reading this around 2008 but can't remember how I would rate it.
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
สมควรแลวทีได Pulitzer เพราะนีคือหนึงในกวีนิพนธทีลุมลึกทีสุดในวรรณกรรมอเมริกัน

Trethewey รอยเรียงบทกวีเกียวกับประวัติศาสตรสหรัฐฯ ชวงสงครามกลางเมือง (ทีถูกฝังไว ไมมีใครยอมพูดถึง) และประสบการณสวนตัวผสานเปนเอกภาพกวีนิพนธ ใชภาษาเรียบงาย วาดวยความรัก ความเกลียดชัง ความงาม ความอัปลักษณ แบบทีไมมีใครทำไดลึกซึงเทา

โคลงบทแรกเริมดวย “You can get there from here, though / there’s no going home.” พออานจบแลวมาสำรวจตัวเองอีกครังจะพบวาเปนแบบทีกวีพูดไวจริง ๆ คนอานเปนแบบไหนตอนเริมอาน พออานจบ รูสึกไดเลยวาเปนคนละคนกั
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'
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
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
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
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
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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This collection is haunting, filled with the paradoxical beauty and brutality of the South as experienced both historically and personally. In addition to the content, I love that many of her poems have more formal structure than the free verse that I'm used to reading, my favorite being the call and response of "Graveyard Blues". This not incredibly complex poetry, the vocabulary and form simple and precise. Nonetheless, it is extraordinarily lyrical, a pitch-perfect gospel chorus that quietly ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, poetry
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
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
C. Varn
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
B. Mason
Natasha Trethewey's Pulitzer Prize is really good. Are you surprised? I enjoyed the way she incorporates photography and explores a the struggle, heartbreak, and injustice of racial inequality in her life and the history of the United States, specifically a regiment of Union soldiers in the Civil War.
Sam (Hissing Potatoes)
This poetry collection is incredible. The way Trethewey weaves together words, themes, and imagery as threads that build on each other throughout every poem is craft at its finest. For example, one poem (Myth) is told in two stanzas, the second a mirror of the first. The title poem Native Guard has multiple sections that bleed into each other, the first line of each echoing the last idea of the previous one.

Many of the poems are detailed descriptions of historical photographs, a fantastic, meani
Parth Jawale
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is 50 pages of poison.
I don't know what to say about it. I certainly don't have a lot to say about the subject matter. Every line feels like an eye-opener.
I wasn't planning on reading anything remotely related to slavery narratives of any kind for a while, but still ended up picking this after reading a couple of poems. This is easily one of the best contemporary poetry collections I've read in recent times. Her prose is razor-sharp, meticulously crafted with brilliant turns of phrase and
Beth Asmaa
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Buffy Hamilton
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking, haunting, brilliant.
Janet Carter
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A remarkable, intimate collection.
Scarlett Peterson
Sep 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Hamuel Sunter
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the beautiful things about having a limited selection of English books at your disposal is that it makes it easy to follow the Randall Jarrell axiom to read at random. Despite her acclaim I hadn't heard of Natasha Trethewey, and I doubt I would've picked this up in a library larger than Sapporo's.

The first half, the poems about Trethewey's mother, were personally moving. But the whole collection was beautiful, of a lushness pared to the bone, stripped to its essential elements; it was Ans
I found out that Natasha Trethewey was chosen to be our next poet laureate and so I looked to see if our library owned anything by her. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we owned this, the book she won the Pulitzer for.

It was everything I hoped for. Trethewey deserves to be the poet laureate - her poems are both personal and universal; she writes about history and the present - all in all, she is excellent. I especially loved what she wrote about her mother.

I know that trying to get folks
Aug 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
These poems are heavy-handed and filled with cliches. Trethewey seems to be content in expressing a feeling at the end of the poem, as if the fact that she felt something was enough. Witness these bad lines (about death no less): "again, another space emptied by loss. / Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill." The poems in form are slightly better (I liked Myth and Graveyard Blues), perhaps the restraint helps her cut a sharper poem, but the free verse poems are bad: often prosaic, uninspiring, s ...more
Joshlin Manning
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard is a beautiful collection of poems that delicately and boldly discusses difficult issues of abuse, race, and the shadowed parts of American history. I had the privilege of hearing her read from this collection this year, which has made it all the more powerful to me. The book is deeply centered in the family unit as she delves into reminiscing about her mother, who has already passed away. An image often associated with her mother is that of decay and premature d ...more
McKenna Rice
I had the opportunity of attending a reading that Natasha Trethewey did at BYU, and I was able to meet her afterwards. I was impressed by her grace, and I enjoyed her poetry. This book is a collection of poems, written mostly about her mother's death and about the history of slavery and racial injustice in the South. Trethewey was born to a white father and a black mother, in a time when miscegenation was still illegal in Mississippi. Despite Trethewey’s justified anger towards “Mississippi, sta ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is interesting because some may be fiction and others may also be non-fiction. The book is overflowing with powerful poems and perfect metaphors. This book doesn't have a theme at all but, it does have great poems that will make your mind work for the deep message hidden deep beneath.
This book has a lot of content from many great writers and many of the poems may be true on how the author was feeling, seeing, or hearing at the time they wrote it. The Native Guard is an incredible boo
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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…