Initially, many of these poems, most of them ekphrastic (see, for example, Enlightenment), felt fragile. Perfectly constructed, but not ones I could find my way into. There were no lines that stood out; everything depended on everything else.

Slowly, as I begin to get some sense of the rhythm of the pieces and recurring motifs started to appear (her father, being mixed race, etc.), I found them more accessible and those poems opened up the whole collection for me. For example, from “The Book of Castas,” on being of mixed race:

what do  you call // that space between / the dark geographies of sex? // Call it the taint – as in / T’aint one and t’aint the other – // illicit and yet naming still / what is between.

I’m not doing Trethewey’s spacing justice, but you can see how those lines would have to be unpacked carefully. The same is true for the whole collection.