Visionary Versemakers | Arts & Humanities Reviews, May 15, 2016

Two magisterial and generous collections of poetry, one from Rita Dove—Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate—and the other from Adrienne Rich, outspoken feminist and political activist

Dove, Rita. Collected Poems: 1974–2004. Norton. May 2016. 400p. ISBN 9780393285949. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393285956. POETRY

collected poems rita doveThis Collected gathers the published verse to date (with the exception of 2009’s Sonata Mulattica and fugitive pieces) of one of American poetry’s most important public figures, the Pulitzer Prize–winning and former U.S. poet laureate Dove. Dove, who has used her high profile to advocate for the reading of poetry and to explore the complex experience of African Americans in her verse, began as a precise lyricist, with a form reminiscent of peers such as Jane Kenyon or Jane Hirshfield. Since 1986’s Thomas and Beulah, detailing one African American family’s life over several decades, Dove has displayed an increasing interest in history, ­narrative, and larger, looser poetic structures. These later pieces are mixed successes; Mother Love, despite Dove’s description, is not a sonnet sequence, and some recent poems, e.g., “The Passage,” are notably prosy, although many lines still generate a striking image or musical phrase. While some readers may miss the insight and concision of her early work, her investigations have integrity and intelligence, offering readers of all backgrounds needed and valuable perspectives. VERDICT Most libraries will want to acquire this generous collection; many will want Dove’s much-praised Sonata ­Mulattica as well. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/15.]—­Graham ­Christian, formerly with ­Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA

redstarRich, Adrienne. Collected Poems: 1950–2012. Norton. Mar. 2016. 960p. notes. index. ISBN 9780393285116. $50; ebk. ISBN 9780393285123. POETRY

collected poems adrianne richOver the six decades of her writing career, Rich (1929–2012) published a new collection nearly every four years, yet the size of this anthology is surprising for not only its quantity but also for the unflagging quality of its craft and vision. An outspoken feminist and political activist, Rich refused to compromise or silence herself in “the purposeless exchange/ of consciousness for the absence/ of pain,” and though her poems often begin with granular, personal observations (“There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill”), they unfold into complex maps of wider awareness and realization (“this is not somewhere else but here,/ our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,/ its own ways of making people disappear.”) Tensions between private and public, between acceptance and resistance, sparked the dynamic that challenged both her own and her readers’ assumptions about their lives and responsibilities. VERDICT An “accurate dreamer” who voiced “her own inward scream,” Rich is an indispensable poet, whose work parallels and brings into focus the transformative zeitgeist of her era. This magisterial compendium forcefully suggests that era has not yet passed. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/15.]—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

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