“[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
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
NATASHA TRETHEWEY is a two term US Poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, 2017 Heinz Award recipient, and has written four collections of poetry and one book of nonfiction. An American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, she is currently Board of Trustees professor of English at Northwestern University.
Read an Excerpt
Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath Do not hang your head or clench your fists when even your friend, after hearing the story, says, My mother would never put up with that. Fight the urge to rattle off statistics: that, more often, a woman who chooses to leave is then murdered. The hundredth time your father says, But she hated violence, why would she marry a guy like that? don’t waste your breath explaining, again, how abusers wait, are patient, that they don’t beat you on the first date, sometimes not even the first few years of a marriage. Keep an impassive face whenever you hear Stand by Your Man, and let go your rage when you recall those words were advice given your mother. Try to forget the first trial, before she was dead, when the charge was only attempted murder; don’t belabor the thinking or the sentence that allowed her ex-husband’s release a year later, or the juror who said, It’s a domestic issue they should work it out themselves. Just breathe when, after you read your poems about grief, a woman asks, Do you think your mother was weak for men? Learn to ignore subtext. Imagine a thought- cloud above your head, dark and heavy with the words you cannot say; let silence rain down. Remember you were told, by your famous professor, that you should write about something else, unburden yourself of the death of your mother and just pour your heart out in the poems. Ask yourself what’s in your heart, that reliquaryblood locket and seedbedand contend with what it means, the folk saying you learned from a Korean poet in Seoul: that one does not bury the mother’s body in the ground but in the chest, orlike you you carry her corpse on your back. I from DOMESTIC WORKLimen All day I’ve listened to the industry of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree just outside my window. Hard at his task, his body is a hinge, a door knocker to the cluttered house of memory in which I can almost see my mother’s face. She is there, again, beyond the tree, its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves, hanging wet sheets on the lineeach one a thin white screen between us. So insistent is this woodpecker, I’m sure he must be looking for something elsenot simply the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work, tireless, making the green hearts flutter. Early Evening, Frankfort, Kentucky It is 1965. I am not yet born, only a fullness beneath the Empire waist of my mother’s blue dress. The ruffles at her neck are waves of light in my father’s eyes. He carries a slim volume, leather-bound, poems to read as they walk. The long road past the college, through town, rises and falls before them, the blue hills shimmering at twilight. The stacks at the distillery exhale, and my parents breathe evening air heady and sweet as Kentucky bourbon. They are young and full of laughter, the sounds in my mother’s throat rippling down into my blood. My mother, who will not reach forty-one, steps into the middle of a field, lies down among clover and sweet grass, right here, right now dead center of her life. Family Portrait Before the picture man comes Mama and I spend the morning cleaning the family room. She hums Motown, doles out chores, a warning He has no legs, she says. Don’t stare. I’m first to the door when he rings. My father and uncle lift his chair onto the porch, arrange his things near the place his feet would be. He poses our only portraitmy father sitting, Mama beside him, and me in between. I watch him bother the space for knees, shins, scratching air asyears laterI’d itch for what’s not there.