Natasha Trethewey's poem "Pilgrimage" is my choice for Poetry Friday. She writes for adults, not children, but teenagers are certainly up to this particular poem. It's about Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is on the Mississippi River. As you probably know, the fall of the city during the Civil War marked a turning point because the Union Army then gained control of the river, dividing the South as well. There's a national military park in the rolling hills on the west side of Vicksburg; 17,000 Union Army troops are buried there. 17,000. "This whole city is a grave," Trethewey writes.
Trethewey, a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, won a Pulitzer this year for Native Guard, the collection in which "Pilgrimage" appears. The publisher, Houghton Mifflin, offers a podcast of Trethewey reading from and talking about the book.
Here, the Mississippi carved
its mud-dark path, a graveyard
for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
Here, the river changed its course,
turning away from the city
as one turns, forgetting, from the past—
To read the entire poem, go to Poets.Org, the web site of the Academy of American Poets.
Update: Monica Edinger, who blogs at Educating Alice, told me that Natasha Trethewey was an artist-in-residence at the Dalton School in NYC last spring. Monica, who teaches fourth grade there, kindly gave the link for a podcast in which Natasha Trethewey and some of the children recite their works. Thanks, Monica!
Literary Safari rounds up all the Poetry Friday posts on this last Friday in October. (Where did the month go?)