Annotated Poems: Miscegenation by Natasha Trethewey


In 1965 my parents broke two laws of Mississippi;
they went to Ohio to marry, returned to Mississippi.

They crossed the river into Cincinnati, a city whose name
begins with a sound like sin, the sound of wrong – mis in Mississippi.

A year later they moved to Canada, followed a route the same
as slaves, the train slicing the white glaze of winter, leaving Mississippi.

Faulkner’s Joe Christmas was born in winter, like Jesus, given his name
for the day he was left at the orphanage, his race unknown in Mississippi.

My father was reading War and Peace when he gave me my name.
I was born near Easter, 1966, in Mississippi.

When I turned 33 my father said, It’s your Jesus year – you’re the same
age he was when he died.
 It was spring, the hills green in Mississippi.

I know more than Joe Christmas did. Natasha is a Russian name –
though I’m not; it means Christmas child, even in Mississippi.


Civil War Reenactment

Civil War Reenactment is a really interesting hobby to look into. To reenact this play, you would have to know the history of the Civil War and be able to throw yourself into the role of a civil war soldier. The people’s want to participate in this event clearly comes from a deep respect for the historical significance of the Civil War. It is also wonderful that people like those in the video are dedicated to keeping our history alive, to the point of giving us a living presentation of what it may have been like to fight in the bloodiest war our nation has seen.The people in this video are reenacting the First Battle of Manassas from the Civil War, which was their way of portraying ‘art’.

Iowa Women Initiating Social Change

Iowa Women Initiating Social Change, or IWIS, is an organization that is affiliated with the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC). Their claim to fame is an event called Take Back The Night, which they organize for Iowa City. The event is an annual rally/march that was started in 1975 and was aimed at raising awareness about violence against women, but recently has grown to include violence against all genders, including transgender people. They invite speakers from many organizations to offer services to victims of sexual violence. The goal of Take Back The Night is to provide a safe and empowering environment for victims. IWIS informs, provides help, and strives to, as the name implies, initiate a social change in attitudes. If you would like to be a part of Take Back The Night, check out the flyer below. If you would like to join IWIS, follow their link provided above and it will give you instructions on how to join.

Natasha Trethewey Talks Race

Natasha Trethewey is a child of a black mother and a white father and she is proud of it. In this interview Trethewey talks about her father’s illegal courtship of her mother.She also talks about growing up in a segregated south with mixed parents.

Natasha Trethewey mentions the fact that her father is white in her poetry, specifically in Southern Pastoral.

It was illegal in the south for couples of mixed race to be married, these were called anti-miscegenation laws. Miscegenation is also the name of another Trethewey poem. Many of Trethewey’s poems have references to her real life experiences. Race was a big social issue in the south when Trethewey was growing up so it makes sense. The reason Trethewey’s poems come across as full of emotion is because they really are. Natasha Trethewey does a really good job expressing her thoughts. I would recommend checking out any of the linked poems, as well as seeing Natasha’s opinion in her interview.


Brutal Imagination

The play “Brutal Imagination” is about a white woman, Susan Smith, who creates a fake identity, Mr. Zero, to blame for the abduction of her two sons after she intentionally pushes her car into the lake with her sons in it, killing them. Although Mr. Zero only exists in Susan’s imagination, the play is a duet between Susan and Mr. Zero where they take us from the scene of the crime through the following nine days where the investigation and the search for Mr. Zero took place.

In the beginning, Mr. Zero states,

“How I Got Born

Though it’s common belief

That Susan Smith willed me alive

At the moment

Her babies sank into the lake…”

Susan tells the police that a black man made her pull over on the highway and get out of her car. He then sped off with her two kids in the back seat after saying that he would keep the kids safe. She describes a typical black man for the police to create a composite sketch from, and then make copies of, to place around the town. Every black person seemed to fit the description.

Throughout the play, Mr. Zero tries to get Susan to confess that she was responsible for the disappearance of the kids. Despite Mr. Zero’s wishes, she continues to desperately hold onto the fake identity. Then, her house is searched and a note from her ex-boyfriend is found. In the letter it states,

“I’m sure that your kids are good kids, but it really wouldn’t matter how good they may be…the fact is, I just don’t want children.”

After this, Mr. Zero begs Susan one more time to confess and then Mr. Zero and Susan both tell the police the real story. She didn’t want to be a mom anymore but she didn’t want her kids to be without a mom. She contemplated driving all three of them into the lake but then changed her mind last minute and got out. After the car was submerged, Mr. Zero was born and the nine day investigation of the crime and the search for Mr. Zero began.

The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1865, and extended into almost every southern state by 1870. They named this Klan after the Greek word kuklos which means “circle”. The name means “Circle of Brothers”. There were three different Klans. In the first Klan there was no organizational structure for this group.The group sought out to restore white supremacy by threats and violence. This included murder against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the government passed the Force Acts which were used to prosecute the Klan’s crimes. The second Klan was founded in Georgia in 1915. It grew very rapidly throughout the Midwest and West out of the South. This Klan preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism”. It was a very formal fraternal organization. The third Klan was mainly used for opposing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation. Today, researchers estimate that there is approximately 150 Klan chapters with upwards of 5,000 members nationwide. In 1999, the city council of Charleston, South Carolina passed a resolution declaring the Klan to be a terrorist organization. To read more on this information, click here.