Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey REVIEW

I got to read an advance copy of Natasha Trethewey’s upcoming book Thrall by signing up on NetGalley.com. Thanks to Mark Letcher for telling me about the website.

* * *

Natasha Trethewey, the newest U.S. poet laureate, uses Casta paintings and ekphrastic poetry to examine what it means to be mixed race, to be wanted and forgotten, accepted and disowned, in her forthcoming collection, Thrall. Throughout this slim volume she also reflects on the relationship with her poet father, who now lives in Canada. The best poem in the collection might be her “Elegy” to their tangled relationship. Occasionally this book felt like more of a history or humanities lesson than a collection of poems, but it was very successful overall.

Trethewey continues to favor structuring her poems with alternating indented lines. She also adds extra spaces between words where a line break would typically go. Plenty of poems employ two-line stanzas.

Term to know that appears at least twice in her poetry:
“A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again” (Wikipedia).

My favorite poems:

“Torna Atras” is the most successful ekphrastic poem in the collection, made more powerful by looking up the painting online, but the connection she makes to her own father makes it even better

“De Espanol y Negra; Mulata” is also a fine ekphrastic poem, made better by viewing the painting (I guess copyright prevents these paintings from being included in this collection. Sigh.)

“Illumination,” the last poem, is about happening across someone’s annotations, highlighting of words (dark ink) on a (white) page (would be interesting to pair this poem with Billy Collins’ “Marginalia”)

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One thought on “Thrall by Natasha Trethewey REVIEW

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