Native Guard

By Natasha Tretheway,

Book cover of Native Guard

Book description

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey's elegiac Native Guard is a deeply personal volume that brings together two legacies of the Deep South.
The title of the collection refers to the Mississippi Native Guards, a black regiment whose role in the…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Native Guard as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book, justly honored with the Pulitzer Prize, surprised me with its formal range and intensity of experience.

Trethewey is celebrated as a chronicler of our collective history, but I was far more taken with the poems of personal history—and, more specifically, personal loss. The poems that examine the absence left by her mother’s untimely death are, to me, the defining poems of the book. These often exemplify her gift for presenting the most telling detail or selecting the word that will resonate on the broadest level.

Let me hone in on one poem, “Myth,” a recasting of the Orpheus…

Tretheway’s poetry, particularly her sonnets, are stunning and evocative and the main reason that this volume won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007. Some of the most powerful poems are spoken in the voice of a recently emancipated Black soldier who writes letters home for illiterate white prisoners of war. Whose stories are really being told by these poems? “They are cautious, dreading / the sight of us. Some neither read nor write, / are laid too low and have a few words to send / but those I give them” she writes, in “February 1863.”  Such a brilliant,…

From Hollis' list on Black poetry.

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