"Boccaccio: Jaren van de Plaag” Zelfs ‘s nachts de lucht rinkelde en rinkelde. Door het dikke gedraaide glas zag hij de priesters voorbij bezemen in hun gepiekte kappen, doden verzamelend. Op iedere stoep een schotel zoet geronnen rook brandend. Hij sloot de ogen om de klap te horen van vlees op vlees, een vloeibaar gekraak zoals een druif als ze op de tong gebroken wordt. Als jongen zwierf hij langs dezelfde straten, verliefd op hij wist niet wie. O de rieten sonatines en toorts- flikkering op de koele slijkkanten van de brug en stoom in pluimen golvend door de slachthuisgaten - twintig jaar. Uit het licht gerold leunde hij met zijn wang tegen de rijen gebonden leder: koel water. Fiametta! Hij had haar op honderd manieren beschreven; iedere keer bleek ze ontrouw. Kon hij alleen maar deze stad in twee breken zodat de maan de wormstekige straten zou zuiveren! Of wegwandelen van dit alles, gewoon weer opnieuw verliefd worden…
Dove has had a tremendous impact on American letters, not only through the scope of her poetry, but also through her work as an advocate. She was named US poet laureate in 1993. Just 40 years old at the time of her appointment, she was the youngest poet ever elected to the position. She was also the first African American to hold the title (Gwendolyn Brooks had been named consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985). Dove was also the first poet laureate to see the appointment as a mandate to generate public interest in the literary arts. She traveled widely during her term, giving readings in a variety of venues from schools to hospitals. Dove noted in the Washington Post that her appointment was “significant in terms of the message it sends about the diversity of our culture and our literature.” Dove has continued to play an important role in the reception of American poetry through her work as editor of the Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011). The omnibus collection of a century-worth of American verse stirred controversy and generated new dialogues about the legacy of American poetry, and its current state. Many praised the anthology for its inclusiveness and scope, however. Katha Pollitt in The Nation called it “comprehensive and broad-ranging,” whatever its omissions. Rita Dove is the recipient of many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is a Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville.
“Boccaccio: The Plague Years” Even at night the air rang and rang. Through the thick swirled glass he watched the priests sweep past in their peaked hoods, collecting death. On each stoop a dish burning sweet clotted smoke. He closed his eyes to hear the slap of flesh onto flesh, a liquid crack like a grape as it breaks on the tongue. As a boy he had slipped along the same streets, in love with he didn’t know whom. O the reeded sonatinas and torch flick on the chill slick sides of the bridge and steam rising in plumes from the slaughterhouse vents— twenty years. Rolling out of the light he leaned his cheek against the rows of bound leather: cool water. Fiammetta! He had described her a hundred ways; each time she had proven unfaithful. If only he could crack this city in two so the moon would scour the wormed streets clean! Or walk away from it all, simply falling in love again . . . Reprinted from Collected Poems: 1974-2004. Copyright (c) 2016 by Rita Dove. publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
THE BREATHING, THE ENDLESS NEWS Every god is lonely, an exile composed of parts: elk horn, cloven hoof. Receptacle for wishes, each god is empty without us, penitent, raking our yards into windblown piles... Children know this; they are the trailings of gods. Their eyes hold nothing at birth then fill slowly with the myth of ourselves. Not so the dolls, out for the count, each toe pouting from the slumped-over toddler clothes: no blossoming there. So we give our children dolls, and they know just what to do - line them up and shoot them. With every execution doll and god grow stronger
Heart to Hearth It's neither red nor sweet. It doesn't melt or turn over, break or hearden, so it can't feel pain, yearning, regret. It doesn't have a tip tot spin on, it isn't even shapely - just a thick clutch of muscle, lopsided, mute. Still, I feel it inside its cage sounding a dull tattoo: I want, I want - but I can open it: there's no key. I can't wear it on my sleeve, or tell you from the bottom of it how I feel. Here, it's all yours, now - but you'll have to take me, too.
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