Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trethewey's Bellocq's Ophelia

Faculty and students at our inaugural official first meeting on October 27, 2011, discussed Natasha Trethewey's Bellocq's Ophelia, a book of poems about prostitutes in the Storyville section of New Orleans in the early 20th century. The poems about this section of the city led to talk about women and men, voice and race and culture.

If you missed the meeting and are interested in the book, there's a short prezzi with some of Bellocq's photographs.

Here also is a link to Trethewey's discussion and reading of poems from this collection.


  1. This book of poems surprised me. I didn’t realize that I would pick it up and not want to put it back down. I tend to like novels, where I can get more involved in the characters and story. However, this collection of poems is a story.

    While Trethewey's words tell of a New Orleans of one hundred years ago, of a time period and profession I knew nothing about, what she says between the lines is about the world today. She writes about the clash between our private self and the self we show to the world, and how, for most of us, those two selves seem to spend at least some of the time at odds with each other. Identity is a negotiation- for women and for men.

    I look forward to reading more of her books and exploring other themes she presents.

    -Sabrina Chesne

  2. Hard for me to read, but I see not all is sad or awful. Still, the heartache is there in me for her, Ophelia, who had to eat and used what she had and could get. Some Kodak moment, eh?

    -Nese Nemec

  3. I found Tretheway's collection heartbreakingly beautiful. Ophelia sees the world as it is--haunting, dark, unjust, sexist, racist, lewd--but she must portray a facade--confidence, light, beauty, sexuality, exoticism--in order to survive. Ophelia, through Tretheway's verse, exudes and embodies feminist and cultural issues that remain, a century after Bellocq, unresolved. A CAPTIVATING read.
    Megan Bolinder

  4. I was moved by this book. I found myself relating to Ophelia and the way she views the world around her. Fake, people only allowed to see what is presented on the surface of their peers. I think that Ophelia, like most women, was lost in the cruel reality of being a woman and I think we all can appreciate that on some levels.