Ekaterini Georgoudaki, "Rita Dove: Crossing Boundaries.

" In her bio-critical survey of Afro-American women poets from the times of slavery to the 1970s, Gloria Hull stresses the "inhospitable conditions" under which black women have created poetry: Being black, they were ignored, discredited, dismissed, or patronized as novelties or secondary talents- by both white men and white women. Being women, they were subject to even further exclusion, sometimes by their own brothers who, like most males, did not feel that literature was women's legitimate province. Hull also stresses the double nature (Anglo-African) of the tradition which these poets created, "one which forced together African and English modes of thought and expression" (165). She further points out black women's cultural isolation, the "underground sisterhood" they have formed to nurture each other, and the "unique tradition" they have "forged and developed" (166).1 Although conditions were more hospitable for black women writers after the Black Power / Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and the Feminist Movement of the 1970s, the ideologies of class, gender, and race still persisted in American society in the 1980s, when Rita Dove started publishing her work. She therefore, shares certain dilemmas and concerns with previous Afro-American women poets, such as their feelings of displacement, fragmentation, and isolation, and their distaste for conventional stereotypes, hierarchies, divisions and boundaries. She also continues their search for wholeness, balance, connection, continuity, reconciliation with the self and the world, as well as their efforts to redefine the self and history, and to renew cultural values.2 As a black person living in the predominantly white societies of the Old and New World, having entered an inter-racial and inter-cultural marriage (her husband is a German writer), and trying to forge an autonomous female poetic voice against the background of a male dominated Euro- and Afro-American literary tradition, Dove has often crossed social and literary boundaries, violated taboos, and experienced displacement, i.e. living "in two different worlds, seeing things with double vision," wherever she has stayed (USA, Germany, Israel).3 Talking to Judith Kitchen and Stan Sanvel Rubin about her European experiences which inspired her second book, Museum (1983), Dove admits that she had a sense of displacement while she was in Europe, and that she expressed this sense through various characters and situations in Museum. She remarks, however, that her stay in Europe broadened her world view and contributed to her growth as a person and an artist: When I went to Europe the first time- that was in '74, way before I had thought of this book- it was mind boggling to see how blind I'd been in my own little world of America. It had never dawned on me that there was a world out there. It was really quite shocking to see that there was another way of looking at things. And when I went back in '80-'81 to spend a lot of time, I got a different angle on the way things are, the way things happen in the world and the importance they take. Also as a person going to Europe I was treated differently because I was American. I was Black, but they treated me differently than people treat me here because I'm Black. And in fact, I often felt a little like Fiammetta; I became an object. I was a Black American, and therefore I became a representative for all of that. And I sometimes felt like a ghost, I mean, people would ask me questions, but I had a feeling that they weren't seeing me, but a shell. So there was that sense of being there and not being there, you know. Then because you are there you can see things a little clearer sometimes. That certainly was something, I think, that informed the spirit of Museum. 4

Dove's complex experiences in the USA and abroad (Europe, N. Africa, Israel) have affected both her vision and her poetic method. Although she deals with the problems of racism and sexism, she does not adopt the polemical voice of either a black nationalist or a feminist poet, and therefore she does not let indignation, anger, and protest control her verse. Although she focuses on the black experience in many of her works she goes beyond the definition of black literature which reflected the black ideal that prevailed since the late 1960s: "Black literature BY blacks, ABOUT blacks, directed TO blacks. ESSENTIAL black literature is the distillation of black life." Her poem "Upon Meeting Don L. Lee, In a Dream," included in her first book The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), expresses her reaction to the black nationalist aesthetic.5 The poet Don Lee, one of its major representatives, is described as "always moving in the yellow half-shadows," as a man with "lashless eyes," surrounded by a chorus of chanting women dressed in robes and stretching "beaded eyes to him." After setting the stage and introducing the black male poet in a kind of priestly role Dove creates a dialogue between him and the first person speaker who is obviously her mouthpiece; and then, through a cluster of surrealistic images, she suggests the decay of the ideology that Don Lee embodies: Moments slip by like worms. "Seven years ago..." he begins; but I cut him off: "Those years are goneWhat is there now?" He starts to cry; his eyeballs Burst into flame. I can see caviar Imbedded like buckshot between his teeth. His hair falls out in clumps of burned-out wire. The music grows like branches in the wind. I lie down, chuckling as the grass curls around me. He can only stand, fists clenched, and weep Tears of iodine, while the singers float away, Rustling on brown paper wings.6 Arnold Rampersad correctly remarks about Dove: Instead of an obsession with the theme of race, one finds an eagerness, perhaps even an anxiety, to transcend- if not actually to repudiate- black cultural nationalism in the name of more inclusive sensibility. Hers is a brilliant mind, reinforced by what appears to be very wide reading, that seeks for itself the widest possible play, an ever expanding range of reference, the most acute distinctions, and the most subtle shadings of meaning. (53) Rampersad also remarks that Dove wishes to possess the wide world and "longs for the complete freedom of her imagination" (56). As her international settings, characters, and themes show, Dove crosses socio-political, literary and other boundaries and divisions, and thus overcomes the feeling of displacement they cause.7 Her imagination is often compelled by historical events, and she believes in the importance of language in shaping our perceptions and entering history. In her conversation with Rubin and Kitchen she states:

And language does shape our perceptions. So I wouldn't go so far as to say that history is language or anything like that, but the way we perceive things is, of course, circumscribed by our ability to express those things... When I started Museum, I was in Europe, and I had a way of looking back on America and distancing myself from my experience I could look at history, at the world, in a different way because I had another mind set. I found historical events fascinating for looking underneath- not for what we always see or what's always said about a historical event, but for the things that can't be related in a dry, historical sense. (229-30) Dove's focus on the underside of history, on the overlooked events, on "things which no one will remember but which are just as important in shaping our concept of ourselves and the world we live in as the biggies" (232), and on the "small people, these nobodies in the course of history" (263), is one way in which she expresses her distaste for conventional hierarchies and interpretations. Like Lorde, Rich, and other contemporary women poets, she adopts a retrospective and reconstructive method and she includes what the American and other cultures have excluded. Thomas and Beulah (1986), for instance, which won Dove the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, focuses on the experiences, feelings, aspirations, and thoughts of lower-class blacks who have usually been ignored by the mainstream American society and its official historians.8 Dove interweaves her two protagonists' experience with important events in the history of the USA (migration of Southern blacks to the industrial North, the Depression, World War II and its effects on USA economy and employment patterns, life of poor blacks, Civil Rights Movement, J. F. Kennedy's assassination, Black Power Movement, etc.) in order to suggest the former's actual significance.9 In the case of "Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), first black man to devise an almanac and predict a solar eclipse accurately" (M 78), Dove imagines his household routine during the day (milking the cows, cooking, sleeping, woken and fed by neighbors) and his scientific work at night. She also records people's reactions to this gifted black man who dared to cross social and racial boundaries ("Banneker" 1st stanza): What did he do except lie under a pear tree, wrapped in a great cloak, and meditate on the heavenly bodies? Venerable, the good people of Baltimore whispered, shocked and more than a little afraid. After all it was said he took to strong drink. Why else would he stay out under the stars all night and why hadn't he married? (M 36) In the second stanza Dove refers to Banneker's vain efforts to attract the President's attention to his scientific discoveries: "another inflamed letter / to President Jefferson- he imagined / the reply, polite and rhetorical" (36), and she finishes the stanza by making an ironic contrast between American society's marginalization and exclusion of a gifted black man and its glorification of a white one:

Those who had been to Philadelphia reported the statue of Benjamin Franklin before the library his very size and likeness. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (36)10 Franklin epitomizes the (white) American dream and has become a kind of mythical hero and a suitable subject for white art. Through subtle protest, irony, and her reassessment of Banneker's life and work, Dove rescues from oblivion and restores this black man's contribution to American scientific and social progress. She also shows that he is a suitable subject for art. Dove's revisionist impulse is similarly expressed in "Robert Schumann, Or: Musical Genius Begins with Affliction," in which she undermines the myth of another well-known white man, the composer Schumann by presenting his relationships with women, often the source of his artistic compositions, in an unromantic and unheroic manner: It began with A- years before in a room with a white piano and lyre-back chairs, Schumann panted on a whore on a coverlet and the oboe got its chance... (YH 10)11 Woman as sexual object, or "as a sacrificial offering to the male artistic imagination" has been a recurrent theme in women's poetry.12 Dove challenges these roles enforced on women, in "Robert Schumann" and other poems. In "Arrow," for instance, she creates a dramatic scene in which a group of women (the female speaker and her students, Becky, Dana, and Janice) sits through an "eminent" scholar's lecture about an "Italian Nobel Laureate" poet whose works he translated. By describing the women's angry reactions to both the scholar's and the Italian poet's sexist attitude, Dove points out women's exclusion from traditional male-centered definitions of humanity and from public discourse, and their reduction to objects. She also shows different ways in which contemporary women cope with such problems: appropriation and subversion of patriarchal discourse; open condemnation of its sexist assumptions; suppression of anger, self-enforced silence and invisibility, etc.: We sat through it. Quite lovely, these poems. We could learn from them although they were saying you women are nothing, nothing at all. When the moment came I raised my hand, phrased my question as I had to: sardonic, eminently civil my condemnation phrased in the language of fathersfelt the room freeze behind me. And the answer came as it had to: humanity- celebrate our differences-

the virility of ethnicity. My students sat there already devising their different ways of coping: Dana knowing it best to have the migraine at once, get the poison out quickly Becky holding it back for five hours and Janice making it to the evening reading and party afterwards in black pants and tunic with silver mirrors her shoes pointed and studded, wicked witch shoes: Janice who will wear red for three days or yellow brighter than her hair so she can't be seen at all (GN 49-50) In "Boccaccio: The Plague Years" and "Fiammetta Breaks Her Peace," Dove goes back in time and provides her readers with another example of a male artist's dehumanizing attitude towards women. Boccaccio idealizes Fiammetta, and thus turns her into an object of adoration. In the former, Boccaccio admits that her essence keeps eluding him: "Fiammetta! / He had described her / a hundred ways; each time / she had proven unfaithful" (M 26). As Dove says in her interview to Kitchen, Fiammetta "isn't anybody really because she's not treated as real" (233). She becomes "frozen or lifted out and set on a pedestal, a mental pedestal," and is thus reduced to a museum object or an artifact (232). Dove reconstructs the Fiammetta-Boccaccio relationship by placing it against the background of the plague and by imagining Fiammetta's viewpoint which has remained unknown. After realistically describing the symptoms of the disease and people's reactions when they confront painful death, Fiammetta complains to her mother about Boccaccio's unrealistic expectations of her, in "Fiammetta Breaks Her Peace." And to think he wanted me beautiful! To be his fresh air and my breasts two soft spiced promises. Stand still, he said once, and let me admire you. (M 27-28) In contrast to Boccaccio's idealism and his belief that he can stop time and the process of physical decay through romantic love and art, Fiammetta offers her own grim vision of a diseased world, and she is concerned with saving life: All is infection, mother- and avarice, and self-pity, and fear! We shall sit quietly in this room, and I think we'll be spared. (M 28)

Presenting both Boccaccio's and Fiammetta's viewpoints in the two poems mentioned above is a typical example of Dove's method of reconstructing events and people's portraits. Robert McDowell calls Dove "an assembler who gathers the various facts of this life and presents them in ways that jar our lazy assumptions." He also compares her to the "speaker / writer of classic argumentation, (who) shows again and again that she understands the opposing sides of conflicts she deals with. She tells all sides of the story" (61).13 In many of her poems she presents the female side which has been suppressed and excluded by traditional history that usually glorifies male achievements. In addition to Fiammetta, she refers to wives of ancient European and Asian leaders and to Christian women saints. According to McDowell, the variety of female personae Dove adopts in Museum "bear witness to the struggles of victimized women in societies in which men are dubiously perceived as gods" (65). In "Nestor's Bathtub," Dove offers her view of the secret life of Nestor's wife, since "Legend, as usual, doesn't / say..." (M 16): As usual, legend got it all wrong: Nestor's wife was the one to crouch under jug upon jug of fragrant water poured until the small room steamed. But where was Nestoron his throne before the hearth, counting the jars of oil in storeroom 34, or at the Trojan wars while his wife with her white hands scraped the dirt from a lover's back with a bronze scalpel? (M 16) In "Nestor's Bathtub" Dove contrasts the power and responsibilities of the Greek King's public office with his wife's limited life- the best she can do to overcome the boredom of domesticity and her loneliness during her husband's absence is to find a lover- the images of her crouching under jugs of water and scraping her lover's dirt reflect her subservient role and unheroic existence. In "Tou Wan Speaks to Her Husband, Liu Sheng" Dove also reveals the female persona's subservient position and her submission to the conventions of her time. As a Chinese Prince's wife- he died in 113 B.C.- she is tied to her husband even after his death. In the poem, Tou Wan describes the tomb she's going to prepare for him, her "only conqueror," her "constant / emperor" (M 21). Her description shows that, among other things, she is obliged to accept as natural her husband's sexual attraction to other women: For those times in your niche when darkness oppresses, I will set you a lamp. (And a statue of the palace girl you most frequently coveted.) (M 22)14

Among her portraits of female historical figures Dove includes women who chose sainthood to conventional social roles. Catherine of Alexandria "rebuked the Roman emperor Galerius Valerius Maximinus, who then condemned her to be broken on the wheel. The wheel miraculously disintegrated" ("Notes," M 78). The poet's comment in "Notes" stresses male violence against insubordinate women in patriarchal societies like the Roman, which deified their male leaders. It also shows that sainthood empowered Catherine and thus enabled her to confront the Emperor's violence successfully. The relevant poem "Catherine of Alexandria" however, is more ambiguous. The Emperor is not mentioned at all. On the other hand, sainthood does not appear as a free choice but as the only alternative to a woman without education and the chance to travel. Even Catherine's spiritual "marriage" to and communion with Jesus are conveyed through images with sexual connotations. We may wonder, therefore, whether Dove presents Jesus as "another patriarch," another deified man like the Emperor, and sainthood as one more kind of female submission to male authority:15 Deprived of learning and the chance to travel, no wonder sainthood came as a voice in your bedand what went on each night was fit for nobody's ears but Jesus'. His breath of a lily. His spiraling pain. Each morning the nightshirt bunched above your waista kept promise, a ring of milk. (M 23) In "Catherine of Siena" Dove also deals with female sainthood. She conveys Catherine's spiritual journey by describing her physical journey, and she stresses that there are no obstacles in the saint's way: You walked the length of Italy to find someone to talk to. You struck the boulder at the roadside since fate has doors everywhere. Under the star-washed dome of heaven, warm and dark as the woolens stacked on cedar shelves back home in your

father's shop, you prayed until tears streaked the sky. No one stumbled across your path. No one unpried your fists as you slept. (M 24) Dove mentions in her "Notes" that Catherine "refused to marry. She received the stigmata and worked to secure peace between the Papacy and a divided Italy, dictating letters of advice to people all over Europe" (78). Thus sainthood gave Catherine of Siena not only spiritual power but also a social status which she would have lacked as a domesticated married woman. Writing about Catherine of Seina, Catherine of Alexandria, Tou Wan, Nestor's wife, Fiammetta, women from Germany, Japan, and other foreign cultures Dove takes a step further than the majority of Afro-American female poets who tell only stories of their racial ancestresses. By claiming women of both black and other races as her ancestresses Dove develops a more inclusive female voice, and she appropriates foreign women's cultural heritage in order to renew and redefine her own. Besides, in poems dealing with black subject matter, Dove covers all the range of the black women's rich historical experience. In "The Transport of Slaves from Maryland to Mississippi," (YH 37-38), for example, the poet presents an incident in 1839, during which a "wagonload of slaves broke their chains, killed two white men, and would have escaped, had not a slave woman helped the Negro driver mount his horse and ride for help" (YH 37). In the first stanza, the incident is described through this slave woman's eyes who also justifies her act of helping the driver- Dove presents two more viewpoints in the poem: I don't know if I helped him up because I thought he was our salvation or not. Left for dead in the middle of the road, dust hovering around the body like a screen of mosquitoes shimmering in the hushed light. The skin across his cheekbones burst open like baked yamsdeliberate, the eyelids came aparthis eyes were my eyes in a yellower face. Death and salvation- one accommodates the other. I am no brute. I got feelings. He might have been a son of mine. (37) In "Pamela" Dove presents the individual effort of a woman slave to regain her freedom. The poet describes the physical details in the woman's northern journey, the thoughts and feelings she has while moving through the woods at night, and while hiding and watching her pursuers "coming, / snapping the brush. They are / smiling, rifles crossed on their chests" (YH 39). Dove ends the poem in ambiguity about the woman's fate. What seems to have priority is the woman's decision to break her chains rather than the result of her effort: "...the hour was come when the man must act, or forever be a slave" (YH 39).16 In "Someone's Blood" Dove also deals with the black mother's agony and guilt for bringing children to a hostile world in which she is unable to protect and raise them properly. The

woman, probably a slave, is forced to part from her child and asks the child to forgive her for giving him / her life (YH 40). In addition to poems about black women during slavery, Dove imagines and conveys the feelings, thoughts, dreams, as well as the important events in the life of lower class black women growing up in the early twentieth century, by recreating her grandmother's lifestory in Thomas and Beulah. Like her caged canary, Beulah is bound by her roles as wife-mother and has very little space of her own within which to move.17 In "Daystar" Dove presents Beulah creating such a private space behind the garage and withdrawing there while her children are asleep and Thomas is absent. In this "place that was hers / for an hour" Beulah is "building a palace" (61) with her imagination. The inner life that Beulah gradually develops enables her to reinvent herself and her environment, to transform and thus resist the hard conditions of her outer life that would destroy her: That smokestack, for instance, in the vacant lot across the street: if she could order it down and watch it float in lapse-time over buckled tar and macadam it would stop an inch or two perhaps before her patent leather shoes. Her body's no longer tender, but her mind is free. She can think up a twilight, sulfur flicking orange then black as the tip of a flamingo's wing, the white picket fence marching up the hill... but she would never create such puny stars. The house, shut up like a pocket watch, those tight hearts breathing insideshe could never invent them. ("Obedience" 62) When Beulah gets a humble job in Charlotte's Dress Shoppe to contribute to the family income she is again encaged in her small work space behind a curtain. This curtain symbolizes her double exclusion from the white female world of the shop and American society in general, both as a black and as a woman who is judged by white standards of femininity and beauty: Nothing nastier than a white person! She mutters as she irons alterations in the backroom of Charlotte's Dress Shoppe. The steam rising from a cranberry wool comes alive with perspiration and stale Evening of Paris. Swamp she born from, swamp she swallow, swamp she got to sink again. The iron shoves gently into a gusset, waits until

the puckers bloom away. Beyond the curtain, the white girls are all wearing shoulder pads to make their faces delicate. That laugh would be Autumn, tossing her hair in imitation of Bacall. (63) Once more Beulah crosses the boundaries of race and class through the inner journey she undertakes. As the title of the above poem "The Great Palaces of Versailles" suggests, her mind freely travels to another culture. From the French aristocracy she appropriates the social status, comfort, luxury, finesse, and dream quality that her own life lacks: Beulah had read in the library how French ladies at court would tuck their fans in a sleeve and walk in the gardens for air. Swaying among lilies, lifting shy layers of silk, they dropped excrement as daintily as handkerchieves. Against all rules she had saved the lining from a botched coat to face last year's gray skirt. She knows whenever she lifts a knee she flashes crimson. That seems legitimate; but in the book she had read how the cavaliere amused themselves wearing powder and perfume and spraying yellow borders knee-high on the stucco of the Orangerie. (64-64)18 Unlike her caged canary which expresses itself outwardly and charms people with the beauty of its song, Beulah keeps secret her inner quest for beauty, order, and meaning, because of the race, class, and gender restrictions in her social environment. Compared to her, Thomas has greater freedom. By playing the mandolin, singing gospel, and telling his grandchildren black folk tales Thomas expresses his feelings, asserts his black male identity, and thus manages to survive in a hostile society. Moreover, he preserves and conveys to the next generation of blacks their rich cultural heritage and the communal values which many of them lost when they migrated from the rural South to the industrial North. The poet inherits both her grandmother's transforming imagination and her grandfather's storytelling ability. By re-remembering and fictionalizing her grandparents' life and talents she validates them. She also acts as a preserver of her racial-cultural heritage. Besides, she proves that love of beauty and the artistic imagination are common human qualities and not the exclusive privilege of higher class white people. By combining fact and fiction, biographical and autobiographical with historical events over a period of sixty years, as well as characters and values from different races and classes (low class American blacks, middle class white Americans, French aristocrats, etc.), by identifying with both male (Thomas) and female (Beulah) consciousness, by creating a background of black music, and by describing Southern Thomas's journey North and the wanderings of unemployed men during the

Depression, Dove balances opposites, bridges conventional divisions (private-public, white-black, high-folk culture, male-female, rural South-industrial North, low-high class, America-Europe, pastpresent, etc.), and she transcends boundaries of space and time in TB. Her international characters and settings in YH, M, and GN, the journey motif that runs through them, her references to artists and artifacts since the ancient times, her individual portraits of real or mythical men and women from the USA and other countries, as well as the instances of love, struggle for freedom and dignity, and sensitivity to beauty, but also of violence, disease, decay, and death that she observes everywhere- all of them enable Dove to expand her range of reference even more. She appropriates, defies, subverts, and reconstructs the traditional male-centered poetic discourse to convey her own complex vision. She speaks with the voice of a world citizen who places her personal, racial, and national experience within the context of the human experience as a whole, and celebrates its richness and continuity. She also speaks with the authority of an artist who claims the world's civilizations as her rightful heritage.19 Notes 1. Gloria T. Hull, "Afro-American Women Poets: A Bio-Critical Survey," Shakespeare's Sisters: Feminist Essays on Women Poets, eds. Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979), 165. In her "Introduction" to Black Women Writers at Work (New York: Continuum, 1983), Claudia Tate also refers both to black women's continuous literary activity since Phyllis Wheatley in the eighteenth century, and to the suppression of their works (xxv). In her long interview with Tate included in the above book, Audre Lorde similarly protests against this long suppression, exclusion, and inattention and blames the black and white literary mafias which control publishing and distribution (114). Tate (xviii) and Alice Walker, "From an Interview," In Search of Our Mother's Gardens: Womanist Prose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1983), 260-3, also protest against the tendency of critics to overlook black women's works and judge the writers by their personal lives. Like Hull, Tate, and Lorde, Calvin Hernton refers to "the historically extraordinary oppression (sexism, racism, classism)" black women experienced in the USA, and to their "suppressed and ignored" literary tradition. Hernton stresses the special quality, richness, and variety of this female literature and its effort "to liberate the black tradition from its misogynistic fetters." See Calvin Hernton, "The Tradition," Parnassus 13:1 (1985): 518, 524, 550. See also Hernton's "The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers," Black American Literature Forum 18.4 (Winter 1984): 139-45, for more information concerning misogynistic attitudes towards black women writers in the Afro-American community. Arnold Rampersad, "The Poems of Rita Dove," Callaloo 9.1 (Winter 1986), on the other hand, stresses the steady decline of contemporary black poetry as a genre, and especially male poetry as contrasted to female, and he hails the appearance of Rita Dove as a sign either "of a coming renaissance" of black poetry or "the emergence of an unusually strong new figure who might provide leadership by brilliant example" (52). Subsequent references to the above critics are in the text. 2. Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), discusses these issues in white, black, and other minority women's poetry very thoroughly (22, 59-90, 166, 194-96, 203, 210-40, 256). Ai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Jayne Cortez, Toi Terricotte, Nikki Giovanni, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Carolyn Rodgers, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, and Margaret Walker are among the contemporary AfroAmerican women poets Ostriker discusses. She does not mention Rita Dove.

3. The definition of displacement belongs to Dove. It appears in the bio-critical introduction to her poems in The Norton Anthology of American Literature. The critic comments that the experience of displacement consistently compels Dove's imagination, and that it takes both detachment and control to maintain (and to live with) such doubleness. See "Rita Dove," The Norton Anthology of American Literature, II, 3rd ed., eds. Nina Baym et al. (New York: Norton, 1989), 2772-73. Further references are in the text. The title is abbreviated as NA in subsequent references. In "Genetic Expedition," Grace Notes: Poems (New York: Norton, 1989), Dove mentions that "housewives stare" at her and her blond daughter ("combed gold"). The child, offspring of an interracial marriage, causes "ghostly confusion" (42). What links the "black mother" with the "cream child" and enables them to transcend the divisions in consciousness caused by difference in skin and hair color is their common femaleness: their common anatomy ("pink" vagina) and biological functions (menstruation, fertility). See "After Reading Mickey in the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed," Grace Notes, 41. The book title appears abbreviated as GN as subsequent page references to it are in the text. 4. A Conversation with Rita Dove," eds. Stan Sanvel Rubin and Earl G. Ingersoll, Black American Literature Forum 20.3 (Fall 1986): 233. The interview took place in New York on 7 March 1985. Further references to it are in the text. Museum was published in Pittsburgh by Carnegie-Mellon UP in 1983. In subsequent page references the title is abbreviated as M. Fiammetta, Boccaccio's beloved, appears as a character in the poems "Boccaccio: The Plague Years" (M 26) and "Fiammetta Breaks Her Peace" (M 27-28). Dove expresses her sense of displacement not only through female but also through male personae, as it is the case of the alienated black American blues singer Champion Jack Dupree who is the main character in her poem "Shakespeare Say," (M 33-34). In her review of Dove's collection of stories Fifth Sunday (1985) Gloria Wade-Gayles points out Dove's creation of black characters who do not belong, who are wounded, misunderstood, displaced, alienated, or lost in a world which deals with surface reality and preconceptions. See Obsidian II 2.2 (Summer 1987): 114. Robert McDowell, "The Assembling Vision of Rita Dove," Callaloo 9.1 (Winter 1986): 65, also includes the figures appearing in a tapestry, in the poem "At the German Writers Conference in Munich" (M 43-44), among Dove's displaced characters. 5. The definition of black literature is taken from "Gwendolyn Brooks," A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing, by Brooks et al. (Detroit, Mich.: Broadside, 1975), 3. This handbook on writing poetry grew out of a suggestion by Brooks and addresses beginning black poets. It provides a brief background of Afro-American poetry, discusses the role of the black poet, gives advice about writing, etc. Other poets who contribute are Don L. Lee, Haki R. Madhubuti, Keoparetse Kgositsile, and Dudley Randall. The book reflects some of the major concerns and ideals of the Black Arts Movement of the late '60s and early '70s. Arnold Rampersad remarks that Dove "certainly confronts Lee in his own once dominating, or domineering, version of that poet's role," according to the "black arts" tradition of the 1960s. Writers like Lee "sometimes used poems the way a Jacobin used cobblestones- because there was nothing more destructive at hand." Rampersad stresses Dove's different approach to poetry, her "profound respect and love" for it, and her "solicitude for its tradition and future" (53-54). Further page references to Rampersad's essay are in the text. 6. The five-stanza poem is included in section I of the book The Yellow House on the Corner (Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon UP, 1980), 16. I am quoting the last three stanzas. The title of the books is abbreviated as YH in subsequent references.

7. Out of the 52 poems in her first book, YH, 18 deal with black subject matter, 21 are not racially identified, and 13 deal with foreign subjects- they are set in Mexico, Germany, France, Japan, Kuwait, and Africa. In M (42 poems), 11 poems deal with the black experience (9 are about Dove's father), 10 cannot be racially identified, and 21 focus on foreign subjects- they are set in Germany, Greece, China, Egypt, Italy, Austria, Israel, Eastern Europe, Dominican Republic). Her third book, Thomas and Beulah, focuses on her grandparents' lives against the background of the black experience during the period 1900-1969. GN (49 poems) contains 4 poems with black subject matter and about 23 poems with autobiographical elements; 13 poems are either set in foreign countries or allude to the art, mythology, social structure, people, etc., in these countries (Greece, France, Italy, Israel, India, and others). In each of the five sections of the book Dove also quotes from a variety of texts (the Bible, Berlioz's letter to Madame F, Wizard of Oz) and writers, such as Toni Morrison, David McFadden, H R. M. Rilke, Claude McKay, Cavafy, and Tracy Kidder. 8. Thomas and Beulah (Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon UP, 1986). The abbreviated title appears as TB in further references. Dove was an associate professor in the creative writing program at ASU, when she received the Pulitzer Prize. The following articles were written on that occasion: Mary Jo Pitzl, "ASU teacher wins Pulitzer in poetry; hiring stirred flap," The Arizona Republic (17 April 1987): A1, A14; Hal Mattern and Alan Thurber, "ASU faculty and students praise Dove unanimously," and David Schwartz, "Pulitzer winner had early start with literature," The Arizona Republic (18 April 1987): E1, E8; George Cathcart, "Pulitzer Prize for Rita Dove is historic moment for ASU," ASU Insight 7.41 (27 April 1987): 1, 8; "Rita Dove: ASU Pulitzer laureate discusses her poems' imagery," State Press (30 April 1987): 5, 11; and Bob Dyer, "Rita Dove: Call Her Poet, Professor, Mommy," The Beacon Journal (31 May 1987): 6-8, 12. The above articles provide information about Dove's life, studies, family, and career. 9. Poems in which Dove uses socio-historical events as a background in TB are: "The Event" (11-12), "Jiving" (14), "Straw Hat" (15), "The Zeppelin Factory" (24-25), "Aircraft" (30), "Aurora Borealis" (31), "Variation on Gaining a Son" (32), "The Satisfaction Coal Company" (40-42), "A Hill of Beans" (54-55), "Weathering Out" (56-57), "The Great Palaces of Versailles" (63-64), "Headdress" (67-68), "Wingfoot Lake" (72-73), "The Oriental Ballerina" (75-77). According to Bob Dyer, "Ms. Dove exercised a bit of artistic license" in telling her grandparents' story (12). Dove does not believe that a story must be factual. She quotes Picasso's view that "art is a lie that tells the truth" (12), but she also believes that poetry is about real life (8). Other critics praise Dove for her gift to "render the apparently unimportant moments that inform a life and set them against a background of larger historical forces, as do Robert Hayden in Elegies for Paradise Valley and Robert Lowell in Notebooks" (NA 2772). In her interview with Dove, Kitchen similarly compares TB with Lowell's Notebook- both poets "play off the smaller against the larger forces of history" (237). 10. Calvin Hernton points out the thread of social protest, a feature of the Afro-American culturalliterary tradition, that runs through "Banneker." He also stresses Jefferson's racist attitude towards the black astronomer and civil engineer whom he labelled a fake when he received his letter and almanac (545-56). 11. Robert McDowell includes Schumann among the "characters whose actual lives have been the stuff of myths," myths which the poet "echoes, distorts, and revises" (63). In addition to the Schumann poem, McDowell includes "The Bird Frau" (9), "The Snow King" (13), "Beauty and the

Beast" (64), and "Upon Meeting Don L. Lee, in a Dream" (16) in the category of poems which show Dove's interest in myth in her book YH. In "Canary" (GN 64), in which Dove refers to Billie Holiday (her "burned voice," "ruined face," etc.), she makes a general statement about women's lack of freedom and their serving patriarchal myths: "Fact is, the invention of women under siege / has been to sharpen love in the service of myth." She ends the poem in an ambiguous manner: "If you can't be free, be a mystery." The pronoun "you" may refer to Holiday; it may refer to the woman reader, or to any woman in patriarchy. It may even be a self-reference, as Jan Clausen suggests in "Still Inventing History," The Women's Review of Books 7.11 (July 1990): 13. Clausen also finds "a profound ambivalence and anxiety" (12) in GN. 12. The quotation is taken from Patricia Klindienst Joplin, "Epilogue: Philomela's Loom," Coming to Light: American Women Poets in the Twentieth Century, eds. Diane W. Middlebrook & Marilyn Yalom (Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P, 1985), 263. In addition to the whore in "Robert Schumann..." Dove presents woman treated as sexual objects in "The Boast" (YH 51), "For Kazuko" (YH 63), "Beauty and the Beast" (YH 64), "Shakespeare Say" (M 33), "The Sailor in Africa" (M 61, 63-64), "Uncle Millet" (GN 18), and "Genie's Prayer Under the Kitchen Sink" (GN 60-61). Women as a piece of property exchanged by men in marriage also appears in "Promises" (TB 51), "Dusting" (TB 53), and "Anniversary" (TB 59), and is discussed by Dove in her interview to the State Press (30 April 1987): 5. 13. See also "Rita Dove" (NA 2772), about Dove's "ability to enter into different points of view in a single poem" and her gift to become what she is not. 14. Vern L. Bullough, Brenda Shelton, and Sarah Slavin, The Subordinated Sex: A History of Attitudes Toward Women, rev. ed. (1973; Athens: The U of Georgia P, 1988), stress the inferior position of Chinese women regardless of time, dynasty (209), or philosophical-religious ideology (210, 213, 21517). A woman could never act autonomously. The husband was regarded as ruler over his wife. The men heading great households had a perfect right to use the women working there as they pleased (210). Adultery by the husband was regarded as a mere peccadillo (211). Polygamy and concubinage were widespread (212). Thus Dove's portrait of Tou Wan is realistic. 15. Dove describes Jesus as "another patriarch smiling down on" the bride at the moment when the father hands over his daughter to the bridegroom as if she is a piece of property. Dove also says that this is a "moment when cages start shutting down again, too, on a political level." See her 30 April 1987 interview to the State Press (5) for more details. 16. This quotation serves as an epigram to the poem. Dove doesn't identify its source. She also deals with the experience of slavery, its injustice and cruelty, from a woman's viewpoint in "Belinda's Petition," (YH 32), and "The House Slave" (YH 33). The journey motif that Dove employs in "Pamela" and other poems is common in black literature dealing with the plight of black people since they were kidnapped from Africa. As Hernton remarks: "Ever since black people were taken out of Africa they have had to be on the run, in flight from injustice, in search of wholeness, of community, of home. But it has been hard to stay in one piece" (532). 17. Claudia Tate points out certain common characteristics in heroines created by contemporary black women writers, in her "Introduction" to Black Women Writers at Work. We find some of these characteristics in Dove's portrayal of Beulah: She is stationary, tied down to her children and a particular place, dependent on friends and relatives for strength and relaxation; she conducts her

quest within close boundaries; her destination is not a place but a state of mind; her journey is internal; intense introspection leads her to understanding of the conditions of her life; then she can establish meaningful relationships (xx-xxi). 18. Other poems in which Beulah expresses her need for romance, beauty, and imaginative freedom are "Magic" (48-49), "Courtship, Diligence" (50), "Dusting" (52-53), "The House on Bishop Street" (60), "Headdress" (67-68), "Sunday Greens" (69), and "The Oriental Ballerina" (75). 19. The following general observation by Alexis DeVeaux describes Dove accurately and places her within the contemporary canon of black women writers: "There is a great exploration of the self in women's work. It's the self in relationships with an intimate other, with the community, the nation and the world. Self is universal in this context because it has an understanding of the one as the beginning one and then moves beyond that. Male writers don't seem to have this concept in their work yet." See "Alexis DeVeaux," Black Women Writers at Work, 54.

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