Trethewey, Natasha: Monuments: New and Selected
Monuments: New and Selected Poems by Natasha Trethewey (Mariner Books, paperback)
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Like a seamless tapestry, Natasha Trethewey weaves together joy, provocation, and American history in her newest collection of poems, Monument: Poems New & Selected. Each section propels us forward as it interrogates not only the stories of Black Americans, but the erasure of trauma and family history. Trethewey is masterful. It would not be too far off to call each of these poems its own painting. Similar to the way a painter layers, she too layers—creating holistic narratives for us to enter and settle into. Although this collection integrates selected work, including work from her Pulitzer Prize winning collection, Thrall, Monument reinvents how we move through society, always being reminded of our identities and our homeland. Whether about art—“When I see Frank’s photograph […] I think of my mother and the year / we spent alone”—or landscape—“I return / to Mississippi, state that made a crime // of me—mulatto, half-breed”—Trethewey’s work embodies the fleeting feeling of love and lament that leaves us craving more.
Publisher Marketing: "[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