Rita Dove, b. 1952

Online Poems

for Craig White's Literature Courses

Golden Oldie


by Rita Dove


Born 1952 in Akron, Ohio, to a chemist father and an academically-gifted mother, in 1987 Rita Dove became the second African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and, in 1993, the first African American U.S. Poet Laureate.

Discussion questions:

1. What's Romantic about this poem? What's not? What's "realistic?"

2. What other possible terms for reading the poem compete with Romanticism? That is, in what other ways are you ready to—or prefer to—read this poem?

2a. Specifically, given Rita Dove's prestige as an African American poet, a multicultural poet, and "a first," what is gained or lost by reading her in those frames of reference rather than as a Romantic or post-Romantic writer?

2b.In contrast or as complement, what is gained or lost by association with a historical style like Romanticism? What risks but what progress? 

3. How may the poem suggest or evoke the romance narrative? The sublime?

4. How does this text fulfill the genre of lyric poetry? How much do we automatically associate lyric poetry with Romanticism?

Golden Oldie

I made it home early, only to get 
stalled in the drivewayswaying 
at the wheel like a blind pianist caught in a tune 
meant for more than two hands playing. 
The words were easy, crooned                          
by a young girl dying to feel alive, to discover 
a pain majestic enough 
to live by. I turned the air conditioning off, 
leaned back to float on a film of sweat, 
and listened to her sentiment:                           
Baby, where did our love go?a lament 
I greedily took in 
without a clue who my lover 
might be, or where to start looking.