Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha TretheweyLonglisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry
“[Trethewey’s poems] dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.” —James H. Billington, 13th Librarian of Congress
Layering joy and urgent defiance—against physical and cultural erasure, against white supremacy whether intangible or graven in stone—Trethewey’s work gives pedestal and witness to unsung icons. Monument, Trethewey’s first retrospective, draws together verse that delineates the stories of working class African American women, a mixed-race prostitute, one of the first black Civil War regiments, mestizo and mulatto figures in Casta paintings, Gulf coast victims of Katrina. Through the collection, inlaid and inextricable, winds the poet’s own family history of trauma and loss, resilience and love.
In this setting, each section, each poem drawn from an “opus of classics both elegant and necessary,”* weaves and interlocks with those that come before and those that follow. As a whole, Monument casts new light on the trauma of our national wounds, our shared history. This is a poet’s remarkable labor to source evidence, persistence, and strength from the past in order to change the very foundation of the vocabulary we use to speak about race, gender, and our collective future.
*Academy of American Poets’ chancellor Marilyn Nelson
Monument (audio only)
Two-term U. Poet Laureate Trethewey Thrall culls some of the finest work from her illustrious two-decade career and presents formally diverse new poems exploring her customary themes. She dredges Monument : Poems : New and Selected. Natasha D. Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry "[Trethewey's poems] dig beneath the surface of history--personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago--to explore the human struggles that we all face.
Billington, 13th Librarian of Congress. As a whole, Monument casts new light on the trauma of our national wounds, our shared history. Pages : Carton Quantity : It also reveals how keenly all of us are shaped by loss, and how much America, too, has been forged by the ever-present shard of grief. Smith, O Magazine.
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Her poems take on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the complexities of miscegenation and the civil war. They address mixed-race families and domestic abuse. They confront gun violence. They engage faith. They speak for those who will not or cannot speak for themselves. She is the author of four collections of poems, a chapbook, and a book of prose, and she has served as the Poet Laureate of the United States for two terms, beginning in , and as editor of Best American Poetry With Thrall , which appeared five years later in , Trethewey returned to her interest in portraiture from the past.
Like Philip Levine , who wrote about working-class life in Detroit, Trethewey observes the lives of people who toil with their hands: seamstresses, maids, beauticians, and the dock and factory workers in and around her hometown of Gulfport. Putting her hands to his, she pulls him in, sets him by the stove. Slowly, she rubs oil into his cracked palms, drawing out soreness from the swells, removing splinters, taking whatever his hands will give. Her men and women have been through the devastation of Hurricane Camille in and, in her later poems, Katrina. They scan the skies, fearful of being sent back to another FEMA trailer of the human soul. You sense NOAA satellites gazing downward in her poems, paying mute witness to the lives below, like the disembodied eyes of Dr. Trethewey pivots knowingly, in her poetry, between hard times and good ones.
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