Growing up in the Deep South, Natasha Trethewey was never told that in her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, black soldiers had played a pivotal role in the Civil War. Off the coast, on Ship Island, stood a fort that had once been a Union prison housing Confederate captives. Protecting the fort was the second regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards -- one of the Union's first official black units. Trethewey's new book of poems pays homage to the soldiers who served and whose voices have echoed through her own life.
The title poem imagines the life of a former slave stationed at the fort, who is charged with writing letters home for the illiterate or invalid POWs and his fellow soldiers. Just as he becomes the guard of Ship Island's memory, so Trethewey recalls her own childhood as the daughter of a black woman and a white man. Her parents' marriage was still illegal in 1966 Mississippi. The racial legacy of the Civil War echoes through elegiac poems that honor her own mother and the forgotten history of her native South. Native Guard is haunted by the intersection of national and personal experience.
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 and national history.
"Trethewey serves our profound need for that rare thing -- artistically fine Civil War poetry...She is our Native Guard." -- David Madden, author of Sharpshooter
"The graceful form conceals a gritty subject...Trethewey has a gift for squeezing the contradictions of the South into very tightly controlled lines." -- Book World The Washington Post
"[Native Guard] consistently presents Trethewey's belief that history is layered, full of bones and ghosts, and that the poet's job is to penetrate and expose." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Trethewey is sure-handed in her use of language and fearless in confronting her own personal issues." The Advocate
"A moving testimony." Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Elegiac...eloquently told...profoundly moving...Trethewey is clearly a poet to savor." --Maxine Kumin
"In a very few years Natasha Trethewey has created a small body of nearly flawless poetry." --Rodney Jones
"[Natasha Tretheway’s] voice is a rare, beautiful gift to the reader." --William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History, UNC Chapel Hill
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