Reviews in 200 Words

Domestic Work by Natasha Trethewey

In Poetry on May 20, 2011 at 2:47 am

Cabbage, lipstick, green bananas, Ivory soap: these things belong in poems. But these things–these concretes–are anything but arbitrary; Trethewey presents scenes so crisp you can see and smell them. These things are here not because certain things don’t belong in poems; they’re here in a new way. Think, “Cabbages are remarkable.” Travel to the places where the voices are rich–the dialect might make you feel like you don’t know these people, but you should. Like maybe you’ve been missing out on an entire food group. Important things are happening here, in a world that jumps from 1945 New Orleans to 1956 Mississippi to 1970 on the front porch. This is very much the domestic world–not just the woman’s world, but the family’s world. The working world. We save what we can, melt small pieces / of soap, gather fallen pecans, keep neck bones / for soup. Domestic life has a lot of smell to it: things to cook and clean, lemon and peach, breakfast and wet laundry and sex. Certainly this is a journey—a cast that’s connected through things and sweat and that relentless woodpecker.

-Micah Ling

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