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Rita Dove by Krystlynn Cumiskey and Malea Proeschel

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago
  
Rita Dove (b.1952)
 

 

Picture from Dove's Official Website

 


 

 

 About the Author

 

     Rita Dove was born in 1952, in Akron Ohio (Kennedy & Gioia, 1134). Dove uses vivid imagery to describe landscapes, as well as issues of race, culture, American history, politics, and family (Poets.org).
     So far Dove has written eight books of poetry, which includes The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), and her best known collection of poems titled Thomas and Beulab (1987). Dove has also written short stories, essays, a novel, and a play. Thomas and Beulab, which was influenced by her grandparents real life experiences, earned Dove the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1987, making Dove the second African American poet to accept the award. She was also the youngest person and first African American to receive the honor of being named Poet Laureate of the United States (Kennedy & Gioia, 1135).
     Today Ms. Dove resides in Charlottesville where she is the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia (Kennedy & Gioia, 1135). 
 
 
 
Silos
 
Like martial swans in spring paraded against the city sky’s
shabby blue, they were always too white and
suddenly there.
 
They were never fingers, never xylophones, although once
a stranger said they put him in mind of Pan’s pipes
and all the lost songs of Greece. But to the townspeople
they were like cigarettes, the smell chewy and bitter
like a field shorn of milkweed, or beer brewing, or
a fingernail scorched over a flame.
 
No, no, exclaimed the children. They’re a fresh packet of chalk,
dreading math work.
 
They were masculine toys. They were tall wishes. They
were the ribs of the modern world.*
 
 
Our Interpretation of the Poem
 
     In an online interview on Rita Dove’s official homepage, Dove states that “There are so many sides to the truth, so many facets, and I like exploring a situation from different angles” (http://people.virginia.edu/~rfd4b/dungy%20interview.pdf). This is defiantly the case in her poem Silos.
     In this four part, four stanza poem Dove tells of silos in a rural area and the reactions that people have to them. In the first stanza, Dove uses imagery and metaphor to create a vision of the silos. These lines leave the reader with a feeling of the silos being out of place by using the words “too white” and “suddenly there”. However, this initial image is a positive one, by using the metaphor of the silos being like “marital swans”.
     The second stanza describes how people reacted to the silos and the comparisons (metaphors) that were made. “They were never fingers, never xylophones”, the townspeople never compared the silos to fun or positive things shaped like silos. The people in the community referred to the silos by their smell, also in a negative tone. Words like “cigarettes”, “chewy”, “bitter”, “beer brewing”, or even “a fingernail scorched over a flame” create a distinct negative image. The only person who referred to the silos positively was a stranger, who referred to them as a musical instrument. A stranger could refer to them that way because he didn’t have to live with them and with their smell.
     The third stanza refers to what children thought of the silos, also negative in nature. They refer to them as “dreading math work”.
     The final stanza the speaker (presumably the author) explains what is beyond the townspeople’s initial sensory reaction. The silos are essential. They were essential not only for their livelihood, but are “the ribs of the modern world”.  
 

 
 Adolescence II  
 
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting.
Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert.
Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips.
 
Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round
As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines.
They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl,
 
One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door.
"Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.
I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle,
 
Patting their sleek bodies with their hands.
"Well, maybe next time." And they rise,
Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight,
 
And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes
They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness.
Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue. **
 
 
Our Interpretation of the Poem
 
     The poem Adolescence II begins with a young girl (speaker) “waiting” in a bathroom. When we discussed the poem, we felt the poem described her rape. There are four parts to this story. The first stanza is before the rape (part one), the second stanza is where the men arrive (second part), the third and forth stanza is during the rape (third part), and the fifth stanza is after the rape (fourth part). We interpreted the “seal men” as men who then surround and rape her. When they ask “Can you feel it?” we thought that they were speaking crudely about the rape. What made us truly believe it was rape was when the narrator says, “I clutch at the ragged holes/they leave behind”. This gave it the feeling of being a negative and aggressive act. She is also left in "the edge of darkness". Which suggests that the narrator is left in despair, which would make sense if she had just been raped.
     However, when we looked up the poem in a book we found a different interpretation. For example, the author in this book (Pat Righelato) suggested that the “seal men” are cockroaches. When the cockroaches whisper “Can you feel it ?” he implies that they are referring to puberty. He feels that Dove is representing adolescence of “contemporary America” (Righelato, 24). The girl is then waiting in the bathroom for the onset of puberty. Support for that hypothesis is in the line that says "the baby breasts are alert". They are alert and ready to mature. The title also points to the conclusion that the girl is waiting for the onset of adolescence. Righelato states that Dove's adolescence geared poems are written to give way to "opportunites for misreading", which is perhaps what we did when we initially read the poem (Righelato, 25). After reading this interpretation, the poem now makes more sense.  
 

 
Interesting Links
 
 

 


 

Sources

 

*Kennedy, X.J., and Gioia, Dana. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 5th ed. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2007.
 
**Poets.org. 2007. The Academy of American Poets. 1 May 2007 http://poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/185.
 
Righelato, Pat. Understanding Rita Dove. University of South Carolina Press, 2006.
 
The Rita Dove Homepage. 1 May 2007 <http://people.virginia.edu/~rfd4b/home.html>.
 
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2007. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 1 May 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Dove>.  

 

Comments (8)

Anonymous said

at 9:24 am on May 10, 2007

I love the way you guys interpreted the poems, it gave a much better understanding of her work. Also the opening paragraph was very informative and gave a better insight into Dove's life. - erin kuntz


Anonymous said

at 9:24 am on May 10, 2007

Good explainations of both poems; pointing out the visual images and the deeper meaning. I also liked how you added other websites including the one with the interview.

Anonymous said

at 9:33 am on May 10, 2007

You did a great job interpreting these poems. I also found the first poem to be rather negitive. When I first read the second poem I thought she was talking about rape as well, but I like the real meaning as it shows the experiences a young girl must go through to become an adult. She maybe stuggled with maturity? -Bre Erickson

Anonymous said

at 9:42 am on May 10, 2007

Good poet, she seems to be a very interesting person. The summary of the poems was also great considering they were both a little confusing.

Anonymous said

at 9:45 am on May 10, 2007

Rita really makes you feel like you're apart of what's happening, she really has a nack for description! I enjoyed how you guys broke it down stanza by stanza, it makes me think I should have done my explaination like that!! Great Job! :)

Anonymous said

at 9:47 am on May 10, 2007

Good work laties. Very forward and well thought out. I enjoyed reading this one.

Anonymous said

at 10:01 am on May 10, 2007

Adolescence is a great poem. But, I would have to agree with the idea of it being the onset of puberty... the poem almost seems too calm to be about a rape, but I can see where that idea would come about. Overall, great page with very good explanations that make the poems much easier to understand as well as relate to!! Nice work ladies!

Anonymous said

at 10:01 am on May 10, 2007

In the poem "Silos" Rita gets it right with the meaning that the rural folks know that the silos are their livilyhood. Bryan

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