One of the poetry books added in the last year is the 3rd ed. of “250 Poems: a Portable Anthology,” ed. by Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl. This slim volume has a nice variety of chronologically-arranged poems from the last 500 years – from Geoffrey Chaucer, b. 1343, and his Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, to “Snail, or, To a House.” by Aracelis Girmay, b. 1977. The index includes a section that arranged the poems by content (eg. city life, patriotism, motherhood). It also has a glossary of poetic terms, and some helpful advice on “How to Write About Poetry – and Why.” Short biographies of the poets are also available in the back of the book. We are featuring a poem by Natasha Trewethey called “History Lesson,” which appears on pg. 290. Trewethey was twice the Poet Laureate of the U.S. (2012 and 2014) and Poet Laureate of Mississippi (her home state) and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her collection “Native Guard.” Her list of other awards is long.
“History Lesson” by Natasha Trewethey, p. 290 of “250 Poems.”
I am four in this photograph, standing
on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,
my hands on the flowered hips
of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,
curl around wet sand. The sun cuts
the rippling Gulf in flashes with each
tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet
glinting like switchblades. I am alone
except for my grandmother, other side
of the camera, telling me how to pose.
It is 1970, two years after they opened
the rest of this beach to us,
forty years since the photograph
where she stood on a narrow plot
of sand marked colored, smiling,
her hands on the flowered hips
of a cotton meal-sack dress.