Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard is (I swear) one of the BEST collections of poetry I have read in a long time.
This collection is seemingly simple. The language is clear, stripped down, and imagistic. The narratives are straightforward and very easy to follow, especially for those who don't read much poetry "because it is hard to understand."
But for those who LOVE poetry and understand it, Native Guard is virtually flawless. Each poem is layered in so many different ways one could read the book straight-through in 45 minutes and be pleased with the read. But if one re-reads it again and again, the layers start shedding--in terms of form, fixed form, line breaks, manuscript organization, response to New Criticisms, etc., etc., etc.
Get this: the formal poetry is so veiled by the gorgeous language that I almost didn't even realize it was written in form. How I've longed to be able to pull off that trick!
This book is a throw back to older contemporary poetry--in the good way. It has that pure, honest integrity of Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, and, dare I say, Robert Bly.
In other words, Native Guard is sincerely unpretentious. It's not full of experimentation for the sake of experimentation. It's a collection of poetry that is simple--in the most complex sense of word, not at all complicated to be complicated.
I wholehearted recommend Native Guard to poetry readers and non-poetry readers. Its poems about loss, history, the South, race, religion, and humanity are accessible yet exceptionally well-crafted.
This book clearly deserved to win a Pulitzer Prize, and I'm excited to see what Trethewey will do in the future.
The gems in this collection: "Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971," "Myth," "Scenes From A Documentary History of Mississippi," "Native Guards," and "Southern History."
5 out of 5 can-you-believe-it-I'm-so-skeptical-about-poetry Hello Kittys.