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CANARY IN BLOOM
Taking in Wash
A Hill of Beans
The House on Bishop Street
The Great Palaces of Versailles
The Oriental Ballerina
Posted April 12, 2004
Thomas and Beulah is a delightfully ¿cute and cuddly¿ book. It is the kind of book one curls up to read in a warm comfy spot. The poet takes the reader on a journey through a biography and an autobiography of Thomas and Beulah¿s lives. The cleverness of the poetical scheme is that the reader has an opportunity to know two different points of view in many of the poems. For example, Courtship is written as Thomas¿ reflection and Courtship, Diligence is written from Beulah¿s perspective. It¿s fun to compare and contrast the two poems, find irony, and most of all find a relationship. Furthermore, this book is written in chronological order throughout Thomas and Beulah¿s lives. The author provides a chronology page in the back of the book which I found essential to understanding the meaning in many of the poems. The book is best read from beginning to end, as it does tell a story. After reading the poems, a reader gets to know the personalities of the two characters, and can find many repeating symbolic colors, objects, or words expressed throughout the two sets of poems. Such an example would be the ¿mandolin¿ which is noted several times in just the few first poems of Thomas¿. And moreover, the color ¿yellow¿ seems to be an important key to expressing emotion in many of Beulah¿s poems and can even be compared to the ¿yellow¿ in Thomas¿ poems. In particular, Courtship, as mentioned above, describes a ¿yellow scarf¿ in which he wore proudly and confident to entice Beulah to be his wife. Thomas wanted to prove that he had the means to take care of her, and the yellow scarf said it all. Contrasting, Courtship, Diligence, depicts a not as pleasant picture of the color yellow. Beulah describes, ¿A yellow scarf runs through his fingers as if it were melting¿Not that scarf, bright as butter. Not his hands, cool as dimes.¿ Beulah obviously sees the yellow scarf as being an unappetizing color; butter yellow gives a negative connotation of being thick and greasy. And the confidence in the color yellow in Thomas¿ poems sharply contrasts Beulah¿s depiction of Thomas¿ nervousness . The poems also offer much humor. It is sweet and funny journey through Thomas¿ rendition of continuously producing baby girls. ¿Girl girl girl girl¿, says Thomas in Compendium, he always wanted a son. Variation on Gaining a Son is a poem about Thomas¿ daughter, Rose, marrying a war veteran in 1945. Here Thomas for the first time feels he has a son when he sees the young man nervously swallow after he realizing what he had just done; Thomas could relate. Beulah also mentions motherhood in her poems, and all that comes along with it. She writes of scary bad dreams about her children in the poem Motherhood. Daystar is a poem about her finding time for herself away from her hectic schedule. Rita Dove even takes the reader through the death of the characters. It is clear this is no ordinary book, and Dove¿s plan of format is fresh and unordinary. The language of the poems really speak to the reader, presenting ordinary objects and emotions of life in creative ways. I highly recommend this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 27, 2004
On first picking up the book Thomas and Beulah, I had no idea what to expect from Rita Dove. Just looking at the picture-perfect portrait of the young African-American couple on the front of the book made me curious to see what kind of story these poems would tell. From the very first page of Thomas¿ section, Mandolin, I became engulfed in the movie-like pictures that were running through my mind as I read through the stanzas. One of the great things about Dove¿s writing is the way that this story actually plays out in your head; first you learn of Thomas, young and fresh and ready to take on the world. You see his daily activity in Akron, Ohio, his love of music and his love of a woman. Such brilliant descriptions of colors and smells and even physical sensations place you right there in the same room as Thomas. As you hear the noises all around you, from page to page, there sounding next to you, you can feel Thomas¿ passion for everything that he comes in contact with. Beulah¿s section Canary in Bloom is filled with just as much sensory, if not more, than Thomas¿. Reading the woman¿s point of view was so much more intimate and passionate that it made me see the true harmony that existed between the two worlds. It¿s so easy to feel connected to both of the characters because they give you so much insight as to what they are experiencing. The ups and downs of their everyday lives show you that they are just real as you and me, yet never have I looked into anyone¿s life as closely as these two have opened their doors for me. Looking at the same moments in time from Beulah¿s point of view after having read Thomas¿ was fascinating! It made me want to go back and re-read Thomas¿ half all over again and compare the likeness of the two. What a captivating idea to be able to see through the eyes of two lovers, to put yourself into the shoes of someone so long ago, with so many feelings and so much emotion that it captures your attention and won¿t let go! I especially thought it was very helpful to me as a newcomer to the world of poetic literature to find the chronology of Thomas and Beulah¿s lives in the back of the book. To capture everything from their births, to their children¿s births, to their own deaths really forces the reader to become a part of the characters and feel a longing to bond with the two. I personally enjoyed reading this book (all three times that I have read it) and would definitely recommend this book to others who are interested, whether you are a poetry professional or a beginner to the experience of poetry like myself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 29, 2004
When I first started reading Thomas and Beulah, I have to admit I was a little bit confused by what the poetry was referring to and the apparent chronology of the poems. After reading through about half of the Mandolin section I came to the conclusion that there must be something more to book. There must be something that I am missing. There is no way that we would be reading something that was this confusing. I acted on this hunch by flipping around through the front, back and middle of the book, desperately searching for some clue to what I was looking for. That is when I discovered the chronology in the back. Because I had skipped straight to the poetry I was assigned when I opened the book I had missed the entire point of what I was reading. I realized that these poems were a rich biography of two people. After discovering the tremendous depth of the work I was reading, I developed a whole new understanding and appreciation of it. I immediately went back and reread the book from the beginning, and it was worth it. I had read poetry before, but none like this. It was so full of life and truth that it was difficult to stop reading. I became completely engulfed in the story of these two people. The fact that their story is told from their perspectives, and is told from both sides of the story, really adds to the overall texture of the work. The format of the storytelling made the story that was being told very powerful. I had read poetry before, but none like this, and I had encountered no collection quite like this one. As for the poetry itself, I found it moving and artistic in ways that I could never hope to be. They were very cleverly arranged, and contained similar poems on each side of the story that shared the two different perspectives of the same events. I found it very entertaining to read a poem in Thomas¿ section and then try to find the corresponding poem from Beulah¿s section. Specifically, the poems ¿Courtship¿ and ¿Courtship, Diligence¿ which offer up the two differing perspectives on their courtship. In ¿Courtship¿ we see how Thomas is trying to please Beulah and win her over with expensive gifts and such, and on the other side we see that Beulah is thinking that she would much prefer something else. It really creates a fascinating angle. So, for anyone looking for a good book of poetry I highly recommend this work by Rita Dove, it is truly a classic piece of Americana.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2004
Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove is an amazing book that really captures the essence of the lives of a black couple who lived in the early 1900s. Rita Dove's book contains poems from Thomas's point of view about different challenges and aspects of life that the couple faced and then goes on to show Beulah's point of view of these same subjects. The great thing about this book is that Dove set it up in chronological order, which makes it very easy to follow and read. There is a chronology in the back of the book that really helps to make more sense of the poems. When I first read the poems I didn't quite understand all of the poems or why they were placed where they were, but once I looked through the chronology it really put things into perspective for me. This book lends one of those priceless opportunities to be able to look into others lives and gain a sense of what they have been through during the span of their lifetime along with their own private thoughts. The book starts off with the thoughts and adventures of Thomas. These poems show Thomas as a very confident man as you see in the poem 'Courtship.' In this poem we see that Thomas thinks highly of the things he owns such as his yellow scarf that he wraps around Beulah's shoulders and he feels that he would also make a good provider for Beulah. In Beulah's poems though there is a very different thought on how Thomas comes across. In the poem 'Courtship, Diligence' it is obvious that Beulah does not think of Thomas as quite the charmer that he sees himself as. Thomas loves his yellow scarf but Beulah doesn't care for it a bit. He thinks his mandolin playing is wonderful and she would rather hear a pianola. The poems continue to show the different things the couple went through and there perspectives on these things. Thomas deals with the fact that he only has daughters and he desperately wants a son. When he finally receives a son it is through the form of marriage to one of his daughters and we get to see the funny side of this in the way that Thomas explains that he feels sorry for the young boy. In the poems we also see Thomas endure strokes and deal with his constant thoughts of his lost friend. As you read along you see that Beulah has her own problems. She has always longed for a different and better life and dreamed of going places such as Paris. The poems tell us how Beulah would try to find alone time outside with peace and quiet to get away from her life for a while. Rita Dove brings these two lives together in such a brilliant manner and really brings out the beauty in Thomas and Beulah's hardships with her eloquent words. She shows us the ups and downs and wonderful insight into two stranger's lives. I think it would be a big challenge to find a more interesting set up and story line of a book of poetry. This is an amazing book of poetry that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys an interesting journey.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 30, 2003
Rita Dove weaves symbols throughout the narratives of Thomas and Beulah's lives, which are 'two sides to one story.' Dove is an expert at creating images that hold the entire meaning of people's lives in a few words.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 7, 2009
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Posted December 25, 2009
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