Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Master Poet, Rita Dove Blends Dance and History: A Book Review

"In recent years writers such as Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and Philip Roth have all included African American World War I veterans in their work; even the 2005 remake of King Kong added in a black former Great War sergeant. The Great War experiences of African American soldiers in 1917 and 1918 did have a thorough and long-lasting effect on African American culture; they made it more alive to cosmopolitan exchanges, provided models of manhood for the next
generation, and raised important questions
about the relation of black Americans to national history and memorial. Du Bois’s soldiers of democracy’ may not have won the fight against racial injustice in the USA, but they left a powerful legacy to an African American culture which played such a crucial role in that fight in the years to come."
--Dr. Mark Whalin

Add to your list of master poets the name of Rita Dove, the first African American poet laureate of the United States (1993 and 1995), author of twelves books of poetry, and professor of English at the University of Virginia, the house that Thomas Jefferson built.

Today, the daddy's feeling Rita's American Smooth, Dove’s more recent work. In this work, she speaks of African Americans surviving, dancing around ballrooms and through minefields of racial bigotry with style and grace: The freedom and exhilaration one feels twirling around the dance floor; the stir a black woman causes when she enters a room (that grand entrance!); Hattie McDaniel's arrival at the Coconut Grove; the determined dignity of the Billie Holidays. But what attracted the daddy were the poems under the title “Not Welcome Here.” These are poems about black soldiers from World War I and World War II and their treatment by an “impertinent nation” once they returned home. Dove lets the black soldier speak:

You didn't want us when we left
but we went.
You didn't want us coming back
but here we are.

In "Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top," Dove puts us on the front lines, showing
us war in all of its horror ("moves ass and balls, over tearing twigs and crushed
faces") and a soldier's life ("hear the le
aves? I am already memory") as pawn
a bigger game and temporary at best:

Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top

A soldier waits until he's called- then
moves ass and balls, over
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking anything's better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.
A soldier is smoke
waiting for wind: he's a long corridor
clanging to the back of a house
where a child sings
in its ruined nursery...
and beauty is the
gleam of my eye on this gunstock and my spit
drying on the blade of this knife
before it warms itself in the gut of a kraut.
Mother, forgive me. Hear the leaves? I am
already memory.
In Bill Moyer's The Language of Life, Dove said of poetry:

"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us the opportunity to think about ourselves
on this planet and what we mean to each other...Equally important is the connection poetry
emphasizes of human being to human being: What are we doing to make everyone's lives
better, and not materially, but spiritually as well? I think that why poetry has often been
considered dangerous."

Rita Dove: Thank you.


MacDaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

daddy, who are the soldiers in the picture?

Stella said...

May I add the poets who first touched my heart: Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker. Great blog, MacDaddy.

Stella said...

I just found Langston Hughes below! Thank you!

rainywalker said...

After 39 years I can still close my eyes and see the blood running like fresh warm jello down the ranp of a C-130 and feel the fading warmth of life. This poem brings all that back and I can faintly smell death and know that it is not far off. It follows us and waits for that one slip, one mistake, that will be unforgiving. Great poet.

MacDaddy said...

anon; They are some of the soldiers from the 369th infantry. The soldiers from the 369th received an award from France for their bravery in war called The French de Gurere for Gallantry. They were the type of black soldiers that Dove is talking about in the poem.
stella: Thanks for the compliment, but, at the risk of sounding ignorant, I don't know about Dorothy Parker. If you get a chance, let me know a little about her and why she touches your heart.
rainywalker: Thanks for sharing your recollections. I've never been to war. But I have two friends who have. They're Vietnam vets. Over the 20 or so years that I've known them, I can't recall them talking about war very much. But when they've talked, there was a shared understanding between them, a level of connection between them based on experience that I could understand intellectually. And, like you, their memories were vivid.

Unlike me, they know a lot about military history; and the last time they reminded me that Gen. Eisenhower ran as an anti-war candidate in 1956 to end the Korean war, which he did. They were pretty convinced that civilian leaders like VP Dick Cheney are more likely to go to war than military persons like Gen. Eisenhower or Gen. Colin Powell, or any military people who have seen war up close.

I think you would like these guys.

Anonymous said...

The soldiers in the picture are:
Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Pvt. Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor.
RIP said...



Keep talking to me through these poets...

You're "gonna" make me say somethings to you in email...(smile)

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

rita is the shit
u got good taste folk

rainywalker said...

I added a comment on my latest blog that you are welcome to use my poem. Thanks.