Skip to Main Content

Summer Tales 2021

Summer Tales is a virtual community for students taking classes remotely. It promises short mental breaks from coursework through reading and social interaction, two fool-proof methods of distraction.

Why Should You Read This Poem?

Natasha Trethewey evokes the dreamlike world of childhood memory in a handful of repeating lines and stark, devastating images.

The Poem: Rotation by Natasha Trethewey


"My father stood in the doorway
         as if to watch over me as I dreamed.
When I saw him outlined — a scrim of light —
         he was already waning, turning to go."

Excerpt from Rotation, by Natasha Tretheway  



Natasha Trethewey uses the pantoum, a poetic form made up of alternating pairs of repeating lines, to describe a childhood memory of near-archetypal resonance: a father silhouetted in the doorway, turning to leave. The poem’s dreamlike atmosphere captures the feeling of separation so powerfully involved in the bedtime rituals of young children, while the imagery of light and dark alludes to the mixed-race Trethewey’s complicated relationship with her white father, poet Eric Trethewey.

About the Author

Natasha Trethewey is New York Times best selling author for Memorial Drive and Pulitzer winner for her Native Guard. She has also served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States from 2012-2014. Thrall, her 2012 book of poetry. was a finalist for the 2013 Paterson Poetry Prize and the 2013 Phillis Wheatley Book Award, Poetry.

Trethewey's work looks closely at the intersection of racial identity and mixed racial identity, history, and society. Her work also tackles white supremacy and race relations by analyzing systems of power and those who create and or perpetuate them.

Talking Points - Reflection Pool

  1. What’s the effect of Trethewey’s repetition of lines? Why might she choose a form that has repeating lines for this poem?
  2. How do you think the speaker in this poem feels about her father––both at the time described in the poem and the moment of remembering it?

Natasha Tretheway at Rutgers Libraries

Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History, and Social Justice


© , Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Rutgers is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to direct suggestions, comments, or complaints concerning any accessibility issues with Rutgers websites to or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier / Provide Feedback form.