Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Emperor's Clothes

Current mood: dumbfounded

Category: Writing and Poetry

Blues in Half-Tones, ¾ Time

By Rita Dove

From nothing comes nothing,
don't you know that by now?
Not a thing for you, sweet thing,
not a wing nor a prayer,though you got half
by birthright,
itching under the skin.

(There's a typo somewhere.)
Buck 'n' wing,
common prayer
which way do you run?
The oaken bucket's
all busted
and the water's all gone.

I'm not for sale because I'm free.
(So they say. They say
the play's the thing, too,
but we know that don't play.)
Everyone's a ticket
or a stub, so it might as well
cost you, my dear.

But are you sure you lost it?
Did you check the back seat?
What a bitch. Gee, that sucks.
Well, you know what they say.
What's gone's gone.
No use crying.
(There's a moral somewhere.)


This poem is so bad, you'd swear it was written by Maya Angelou. What in the name of God has gone wrong with poetry?

Versifying sisters are a dime a dozen, so being a black female can't account for this woman's success. What on earth is Rita Dove's appeal? High school poets read better poems at poetry slams.

If this drivel is what we get from a Pulitzer winner and a Poet Laureate, then Alicia Keys deserves to be America's best selling contemporary poet.


Update: This poem by Elizabeth Bishop is in every sense of the word poetry. We can experience her poem. When we read about the gas station, we are there.

Bishop's poem shows us. Dove's poem tells us - and that's the difference.

Filling Station

By Elizabeth Bishop

Oh, but it is dirty!
--this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!
Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it's a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.
Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.
Some comic books provide
the only note of color--
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.
Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)
Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe.
Somebody arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.


I'll let Maya's poetry speak for itself:

Seven Women's Blessed Assurance

The first woman said, One thing about me I'm little and low,
I find me a man wherever I go.

The second woman said, they call me string bean cause I'm so tall.
Men see me, they ready to fall.

The third woman said, I'm fat as butter and sweet as cake.
Men start to tremble every time I shake.

The fourth woman said, I'm young as morning and fresh as dew.
Everybody loves me and so do you.

The fifth woman said, I'm little and lean, sweet to the bone,
They like to pick me up and carry me home.

The sixth woman said, When I passed forty I dropped pretense,
cause men like women who got some sense.

But the seventh woman is my favorite, for obvious reasons.
The seventh woman said, Fifty-five is perfect, so is fifty-nine, cause every man needs to rest sometime. *


* I apologize for unintentionally altering Angelou's line breaks. My blog template repeatedly overruled me when I entered the poem as written.

I do not apologize for her cringe-worthy lines, which no amount of rearranging could redeem.


Twelve thousand people gave her a standing "O" for this "poem".She wrote it for an annual AARP convention, where she was being honored for her outstanding literary achievements.