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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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POETRY

 

 

Meet Our National Treasure,

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet,

Rita Dove




Photo by Fred Viebahn


 

            Biography


 

Rita Dove is a former U.S.   Poet Laureate (1993-1995) and recipient of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.   She is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Sonata Mulattica (2009) and American Smooth (2004), as well as a collection of short stories, a novel, and a play.   She is sole editor of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2011).   She has received the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the Premio Capri (the international prize of the Italian "island of poetry"), the National Humanities Medal in 1996 from President Clinton, and the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in February 2012.   Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

 



Lightnin’ Blues

 

                                               

On the radio a canary bewailed her luck

while the county outside was kicking with rain.

The kids bickered in the back seat;

the wife gasped whenever lightning struck

where it damn well pleased.   Friday night,

 

and he never sang better.   The fish

would be flashing like beautiful sequined cigars.

This time he'd fixed the bait himself,

cornmeal and a little sugar water

stirred to a ball on the stove,

pinched off for the scavenger carp.

 

So why did the car stall?  And leap

backwards every time he turned the key?

Was Gabriel a paper man, a horn player

who could follow only the notes on the score?

Or was this sheriff the culprit,

pressing his badge to the window to say

You're lucky—a tree fell on the road ahead

just a few minutes ago.

 

Turned around, the car started

meek as a lamb.   No one spoke

but that old trickster on the radio,

Kingfish addressing the Mystic Knights of the Sea.


                                                              —Rita Dove


 

Aurora Borealis

 

                                               

This far south such crippling

Radiance.   People surge

From their homes onto the streets, certain

This is the end,

For it is 1943

And they are tired.

 

Thomas walks out of the movie house

And forgets where he is.

He is drowning and

The darkness above him

Spits and churns.

 

What shines is a thought

Which has lost its way.   Helpless

It hangs and shivers

Like a veil.   So much

 

For despair.

Thomas, go home.


                                         —Rita Dove



“Lightnin’ Blues” and “Aurora Borealis” from Thomas and Beulah: Poems, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA © 1986 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author.


Ms. Dove's books are listed below.  A link to Amazon for Thomas and Beulah is offered here:  Amazon.com

 

Penguin Classics

The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (October 2011)—edited anthology from Penguin Classics

 

W.W. Norton books

Sonata Mulattica (2010, paperback)

American Smooth (2004)

Mother Love (1995)

Grace Notes (1989)

 

Vintage (imprint of Pantheon; paperback):

Through the Ivory Gate (novel, 1992)

Selected Poems (1993, this is particularly interesting as it is a collection of her three earliest poetry books, including Thomas and Beulah for which she received the Pulitzer Prize.)