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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.
About the Author
NATASHA TRETHEWEY is the current U.S. Poet Laureate and is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. "Native Guard," her third collection of poetry, received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. "Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast" was published in 2010. A new collection of poetry, "Thrall," is forthcoming in September.
"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
"Natasha Trethewey serves our profound need for that rare thingartistically fine Civil War poetry...She is our Native Guard." --David Madden, Louisiana State University, author of Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War