On the Bus with Rosa Parks: Poems

Rita Dove, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21 (95p) ISBN 978-0-393-04722-6
Dove's brilliance--as with all great writers--is inextricable from her formal gifts: her poems effortlessly suggest grand narratives and American myths, yet ground themselves tersely in localities, characters, practicalities and particulars. This seventh collection leads off with a Dove specialty, the historical sequence: her ""Cameos"" lend broad, social relevance to an intermittently abandoned Depression-era wife and her family. As in Alice Munro's fiction, slight notations of near-undetectable actions are keys to deep emotional transformation: ""Now she just/ enjoys, and excess/ hardens on her like/ a shell./ She sheens."" In subsequent poems such as ""Testimonial"" and ""Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967,"" Dove revisits precocious origins (""I was pirouette and flourish,/ I was filigree and flame"") and traces, with her characteristically strong enjambments, an emerging sexuality: ""how her body felt/ tender and fierce, all at once."" And as with the Pulitzer Prize-winning sonnets of Thomas and Beulah (no sonnets this time out), the reader follows the poet's imagined rituals and movements--""each night the bed creaking/ cast onto the waves/ each dawn rose flaunting/ their loose tongues of flame""--only to come squarely back to earth in the title section: ""Not even my own grandmother would pity me;/ instead she'd suck her teeth at the sorry sight/ of some Negro actually looking for misery.// Well. I'd go home if I knew where to get off."" Readers will find that this is the place. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 95 pages - 978-0-393-32026-8
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-0-393-24914-9
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