Cover image for American smooth : poems
American smooth : poems
Dove, Rita.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
143 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3554.O884 A77 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An occasion to celebrate: a new collection by the Pulitzer Prize-winning former poet laureate; her first since On the Bus with Rosa Parks. With the grace of an Astaire, Rita Dove's magnificent poems pay homage to our kaleidoscopic cultural heritage; from the glorious shimmer of an operatic soprano to Bessie Smith's mournful wail; from paradise lost to angel food cake; from hotshots at the local shooting range to the Negro jazz band in World War I whose music conquered Europe before the Allied advance. Like the ballroom-dancing couple of the title poem, smiling and making the difficult seem effortless, Dove explores the shifting surfaces between perception and intimation.

Author Notes

Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States, is the recipient of many honors, among them the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal, and the Heinz Award. Among her recent publications are the poetry collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks and the drama The Darker Face of the Earth. She is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Pulitzer Prize winner and poet laureate Rita Dove is a formidable writer, so one expects if not a brilliant, at least a compelling twelfth poetry collection, and she does not disappoint. American Smooth is aptly titled since the book is infused with dance rhythms, and swings between historical and personal portraits of various Americans, from the Great War's negro soldiers to jazz musicians and a young girl from Harlem. Dove uses her highly eclectic interests, her sharp intellect, and her understanding of history and individuals to deliver a collection that speaks through many voices and covers a broad range of thoughts and emotions. She has the uncanny ability to distill things down to an essential idea like desire, flight, or body versus mind. But make no mistake; she is not hooked on abstraction. Dove deftly uses ideas as the springboard for plunging into feelings and experiences in a search for the individual stories that reveal greater universal truths. --Janet St. John Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This substantial eighth collection from the former U.S. poet laureate recaps almost all of Dove's various projects and roles. The Ohio-born, Virginia-based poet made her name (and landed a Pulitzer Prize) with the sparsely wrought storytelling verse of Thomas and Beulah (1986). Dove displays her vivid narrative gifts and the formal versatility that enables them in "Not Welcome Here," a sequence about black American soldiers (and soldier-musicians) in the First World War; the sequence may be her strongest work in 10 years. Dove's public presence as laureate and educator-highlighted in On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999)-informs the very accessible short poems that begin and end the volume, some of them based on dance steps or musical forms ("Fox Trot," "Lullaby," blues); several may be intended for young audiences ("Count to Ten and We'll Be There"). Short-lined poems such as "Soprano," meanwhile, revive the gift for freestanding, magazine-friendly lyric Dove showed in Grace Notes (1989), while work addressed to her daughter recalls Dove's previous depictions of mothers in myth (the Demeter and Persephone of Mother Love) and autobiographical fact. Though she claims (in "Brown"), "I prefer grand entrances," her most attractive work has been terse and subtle, almost photographic in its poise and reserve, never saying more than she means: the best of her new work returns to those familiar virtues. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With her eye for the telling detail and her ear for the language and its idiosyncrasies of sound and meaning, Dove, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate, combines the best of poetry and ventriloquism. In these free-verse poems, she speaks from her own perspective as well as from that of biblical characters, black soldiers from World War I, a ten-year-old girl from Harlem, several musicians, and a pair of dancers. The selections work by lists, line breaks where ideas collide, and a juxtaposition of voices. Then using razor-sharp metaphors, Dove goes for the jugular and usually finds it. Although the book's sense of audience seems inconsistent, with some poems suitable for A Child's Garden of Verses and others for The Kama Sutra, the poems are evocative. "The Seven Veils of Salome," a sequence as seductive as the original story, sketches in John the Baptist by noting "his large beautifully arrogant head." Recommended for public and academic libraries. C. Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., Towson, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Headings such as "Not Welcome Here," a tribute to African-American soldiers who fought in World War I; "Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove"; and "Blues in Half-Tones, 1/2 Time" illustrate the breadth of subjects in this collection of poems brought together from other sources. Many of them have the fine texture that is one definition of "smooth." An example is the poem "The Seven Veils of Salome": "-she moves as if inventing/time-and the musicians scurry/to deliver a carpet of flutes/under her flawless heel." Yet the term also describes a form of ballroom dancing that permits "-improvisation and individual expression." "Desk Dreams" makes clear the effort required in writing: "-Blue-ruled paper from grade school days./I languish for hours/on the near side of a hyphen: great expectations/cut by the call/of a single prehensile jay." Teens can dip into this book or read it straight through. There is something for everyone within its covers.-Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Fox Trot Fridaysp. 13
All Souls'p. 15
"I have been a stranger in a strange land"p. 17
Fox Trot Fridaysp. 19
Ta Ta Cha Chap. 20
Quickp. 22
Brownp. 23
Foxp. 25
Heart to Heartp. 26
Cozy Apologiap. 28
Sopranop. 30
Two for the Montrose Drive-Inp. 32
Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Targetp. 36
American Smoothp. 39
Not Welcome Herep. 41
The Castle Walkp. 43
The Passagep. 46
Noble Sissle's Hornp. 57
Alfonzo Prepares to Go Over the Topp. 59
La Chapelle. 92nd Division. Ted.p. 60
Variation on Reclamationp. 62
The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europep. 65
Ripontp. 67
Twelve Chairsp. 71
Blues in Half-Tones, 3/4 Timep. 87
Chocolatep. 89
Bolerop. 90
Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grovep. 92
Samba Summerp. 95
Blues in Half-Tones, 3/4 Timep. 97
Describe Yourself in Three Words or Lessp. 99
The Seven Veils of Salomep. 100
From Your Valentinep. 104
Rhumbap. 107
The Sisters: Swansongp. 112
Evening Primrosep. 115
Evening Primrosep. 117
Reverie in Open Airp. 118
Sic Itur Ad Astrap. 119
Count to Ten and We'll Be Therep. 121
Eliza, Age 10, Harlemp. 122
Lullabyp. 123
Driving Throughp. 125
Desert Backyardp. 127
Desk Dreamsp. 128
Nowp. 132
Against Flightp. 134
Looking Up from the Page, I Am Reminded of This Mortal Coilp. 136
Notesp. 139
Acknowledgmentsp. 141
Biographical Notep. 143