Vacation

vacationRita Dove

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952, the daughter of one of the first black chemists in the tire industry. Dove was encouraged to read widely by her parents, and excelled in school. She was named a Presidential Scholar, one of the top one hundred high-school graduates in the country and attended Miami University in Ohio as a National Merit Scholar. After graduating, Dove received a Fulbright to study at the University of Tübingen in West Germany, and later earned an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she met her husband, the German writer Fred Viebahn. Dove made her formal literary debut in 1980 with the poetry collection The Yellow House on the Corner, which received praise for its sense of history combined with individual detail. The book heralded the start of long and productive career, and it also announced the distinctive style that Dove continues to develop. In works like the verse-novel Thomas and Beulah (1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize, On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Sonata Mulattica (2009), Dove treats historical events with a personal touch, addressing her grandparents’ life and marriage in early 20th-century Ohio, the battles and triumphs of the Civil Rights era, and the forgotten career of black violinist and friend to Beethoven, George Polgreen Bridgetower. Poet Brenda Shaughnessy noted that “Dove is a master at transforming a public or historic element—re-envisioning a spectacle and unearthing the heartfelt, wildly original private thoughts such historic moments always contain.”

But Dove’s work is known for its lyricism and beauty as well as its sense of history and political scope. She frequently writes about other art forms, including music in Sonata Mulattica and dance in the collection American Smooth (2004). Writing in the New York Times, Emily Nussbaum noted how dance and poetry connect for Dove: “For Dove, dance is an implicit parallel to poetry. Each is an expression of grace performed within limits; each an art weighted by history but malleable enough to form something utterly new.” Sonata Mulattica follows the tempestuous life of 18th century violinist Bridgetower, who took Europe by storm, had a famous sonata composed for him, and died in obscurity. The Los Angeles Times described Dove’s book as an “ambitious effort, using multiple distinctive voices and perspectives to chronicle the complex tale ‘of light and shadow, / what we hear and the silence that follows.’” Poet Mark Doty called the work “richly imagined,” with “the sweep and vivid characters of a novel, but… written with a poet’s economy, an eye for the exact detail.”

In addition to poetry, Dove has published works of fiction, including the short story collection Fifth Sunday (1990) and the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992). Her play The Darker Face of the Earth (1996) was produced at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Dove is also an acclaimed lyricist, and has written lyrics for composers ranging from Tania León to John Williams. Of her forays into other genres, Dove told Black American Literature Forum: “There’s no reason to subscribe authors to particular genres. I’m a writer, and I write in the form that most suits what I want to say.” Dove’s own work, the popular Thomas and Beulah, was staged as an opera by Museum for Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2001.

Read more:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/rita-dove

Video:

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/6840:bill-moyers-interviews-rita-dove-on-the-power-of-poetry-video

Rita Dove – Vacation

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Source:

http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/vacation

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