Bellocq's Ophelia

Bellocq's Ophelia
Natasha Trethewey

“Trethewey’s spare yet plangent verse portrait illuminates a soul ennobled in her quiet battle with injustice.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Trethewey’s words are simple. Her work is not. It is alive with images and stories that mark Trethwey as an intuitive new voice for the 21st century.”—The Times Daily

About the Book

Natasha Trethewey's elegant and harrowing sequence of poems imagining the untold history behind the photographs of E. J. Bellocq
Selected as a "2003 Notable Book" by the American Library Association

In the early 1900s, E.J. Bellocq photographed prostitutes in the red-light district of New Orleans. His remarkable, candid photos inspired Natasha Trethewey to imagine the life of Ophelia, the subject of her stunning second collection of poems. With elegant precision, Ophelia tells of her life on display: her white father whose approval she earns by standing very still; the brothel Madame who tells her to act like a statue while the gentlemen callers choose; and finally the camera, which not only captures her body, but also offers a glimpse into her soul.

Additional Reviews

“Through a series of letters home, reminiscences, and other characters’ voices, the life Trethewey creates—that of a sensitive and observant woman sorting through the contradictions of her singular job and the strange relationship between artists and model—is made rich and plausible.”—Washington City Paper

“More than mere photographs, these are love letters that open like windows onto the temple of Aphrodite. Women are free to step into and out of the picture frame to learn firsthand from these religious adepts.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Trethewey goes two-for-two by successfully taking on the poetically dubious task of working from art and making it signify anew.”—Publishers Weekly