This exquisite handmade limited edition is a work of art unto itself; at first, scribbling on its pristine surfaces, I felt like a graffiti artist defacing a public building. After the first few ink strokes, though, the poems reemerged, and the most astonishing thing happened: I was in conversation with my younger self.
Limited edition (number 47 of 200), signed on front flyleaf, “I can’t believe how terrifying it is to deface a work of art like this chapbook, whose siblings I have been protecting for 37 years. There—I’ve done it. Rita Dove March, 2014.” A little further on when she crosses out one of her annotations she says, “(So I’ve made my first blotch on this piece of art. Now I can relax.”) More than relaxed, she is positively exuberant in her annotations. Fondly recalling this early work, she has extensively annotated every one of the ten poems in the collection. “A sly beginning,” she says of the inaugural poem, “Adolescence II,” “starting puberty in medias res like this.” Some of the annotations are as lengthy as the 15-line poems she writes about. Of “The Abduction,” about Solomon Northup, she writes, “Crazy, crazy: this poem written in the mid-seventies, the film Twelve Years A Slave getting an Oscar in 2014…” “Adolescence III” begins with the line, “With Dad gone…” and she writes alongside: “Not true—but it sounded better for the poem. Sorry, Dad!” Some lines jar her now: “I’ve always been troubled by this line,” she writes of “pigs squealed invisibly from the bleachers” in “Abduction.” The line “Moments slip by like worms” in “Upon Meeting Mr. Don Lee…” elicits a “Yecch. Gooey.” The line “Burst into flame,” a sarcastic, “Whoa! Really, Ms. Dove?” Dove was the youngest person to be named Poet Laureate of the United States, when she assumed that post in 1993.
DOVE, Rita (b. 1952). Ten Poems. Lisbon, Iowa: The Penumbra Press, 1977. The Manila Series: Number Four. Oblong 8°. Brown wrappers, in illustrated manila envelope.