Books Magazine

The Night I Learned the Meaning of Miscegenation

By Anovelsource @thenovellife

It was 2012 when I sat on a bleacher in the back of a crowded coffee shop with my daughter and a hundred others to listen to the Poetry Slam as part of the annual Decatur Book Festival.  We were all sweaty, stinky and yet glued to our seats as United States Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway and her father, poet & professor Eric Tretheway, shared with us their history, their hearts and their poetry.

My favorite poem of the evening, and the one that takes me back to that bench on a hot, muggy, Georgia September night is Miscegenation.  It is no wonder she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for Native Guard, of which this poem is from.  Natasha Tretheway writes poems filled with depth and light and humanity.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Poetry Slam ~ especially one where Ms. Tretheway may be speaking, then make sure you snag the best seat and know you are in for the treat of a lifetime.


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.

~ Natasha Tretheway

What is your favorite poem? Join me in celebrating ALL poetry this month, from the works of Shel Silverstein to Pablo Neruda to Poet Laureate’s like Natasha Tretheway ;-)

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