TRETHEWEY, Natasha. Native guard. Houghton Mifflin, Mariner. 49p. c2006. 0-618-87265-7. $13.95. SA
"You can get there from here, though / there's no going home. / Everywhere you go will be somewhere / you've never been." With these provocative lines, Trethewey opens this slender collection and subconsciously sums up our reading experience at once. In a mere 26 poems she generates a convincing physical presence of the South, a poignant reflection on the Civil War and a personal contemporary world forever tied to it.
As multifaceted and encompassing as this material is, however, her presentation is at the heart of this volume's success. Perhaps because it is couched in a clear, disarmingly simple narration, Trethewey's lyrical subtlety is both effective and surprising. "She is leaving behind / the dirt roads of Mississippi, the film / of red dust around her ankles, the thin / whistle of wind through the floorboards / of the shotgun house, the very idea of home."
And, despite her deep rooting in the perplexing concrete of place, history and her relationship to it,...