1 March 2017
Guilt and Loss in Natasha Trethewey’s “Myth”
In Natasha Trethewey’s poem “Myth,” the speaker wallows in grief caused by the death of someone she held very near to her heart. To be able to fully grasp the complexity of the poem one must know background knowledge about the author. When Natasha Trethewey was young, her mother unexpectedly died. The poem pays tribute to her mother by echoing her memory. Trethewey also wrote the poem in the reversal style, more specifically a line palindrome. This is when the poem has been reflected across the middle line by line. The use of symbolism, punctuation, and repetition creates the anguish and grief embedded in Trethewey’s “Myth.”
The first and second halves of a line palindrome work together to emphasize the meaning. Repetition in the second half reinforces the meaning of the first half, while at the same time offering new information and insight on the material. This is exactly what Trethewey did in “Myth.” She emphasizes the speaker’s grief by using this type of poem. Grief dominates the first line of the poem “I was asleep while you were dying” (Trethewey 1). This could be taken literally as in she was asleep while her mom was dying, but most likely it is meant to be taken more metaphorically. The word asleep could mean that Trethewey was not paying attention to her mom or that she was not there for her mom when she died. This would certainly cause her grief. The next two lines are similar to the first as you can take them to have more than one meaning “It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow/ I make between my slumber and my waking” (Trethewey 2 - 3). Line two can be taken to mean that her mom died. Line three provides the when: Trethewey was in a place between slumber and waking, or you could say she was waking up. This could mean that she was just starting to have better relations with her mom. That she was just waking up to the grown-up world. Trethewey was nineteen, still a teenager, when her mom died. Teenagers are notorious for not getting along with their parents. Trethewey and her mom may have been estranged, or at least not getting along. One possibility is that they could have been starting to reconnect, or Trethewey could have begun to want to reconnect with her mom, and she feels guilty for not doing so.
The next line keeps up the theme of grief. The line “the Erebus I keep you in, still trying” adds to the reader’s understanding of how she feels (Trethewey 4). Erebus is a place in Greek mythology where you go immediately after death. It is described as the darkness between Earth and Hades. Line four is talking about her keeping her mom alive in her memories. She is keeping her mom in this place between life and death. Her mom is not alive anymore, but Trethewey will not let the memory of her go. Line three strengthens the impression of grief in line four. If you read line three as it goes with line four “I make between...