Poetry by Rita Dove

For once a poem acually made sense to me. Usually when I read poetry I get very confused by all the abstract thoughs and ideas. Along those lines I was wondering if anyone else feels like same. Poetry is like abstract art to me sometimes. Because in my mind I look at the art and some of it is so simple a baby can do it. But this poetry that Rita Dove writes seems to be more concrete. The poem Maple Valley Branch Library is one of few poems that struck me as interesting. Rita talks about how many possibilities there are. Ranging from simple things like childrens books and then works as complicated as math theroms. It struck me because if I was given the option of freezing time in a library I would. But I am also sad that time cannnot stop and I will not put other things above my other activities. Fresh air and friends are more important to me. I wish this was not the case

To be treated like nothing.
To be pushed around by others
and to not retaliate violently?
But to sit without facial expression
until the inevitable comes.
To be taken away and come back the next day,
to do it again
The whole time believing in what you are doing,
for the good of all people
and the country.


I enjoyed reading "Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967". I like it so much that I recommend it that teachers read it to their students. This poem encourages reading, and most importantly...learning. With learning, one can explore the world or learn about the "gestalt theory/cosine/poetry/phonics/etc."

This poem should cause awareness to some communities to build a library. Because, as this poem shows, libraries DO influence a person. Libraries should be taken advantage of...yet, at many times, they are taken for granted.


     I love how with "Rosa", Rita Dove creates very vivid images with very few words. This poem relates a hugely important moment in history, but instead of using elaborate detail to make the oft-told story seem new and real, Rita manages to do just that by picking out certain choice images that quickly give you a sense of who Rosa was and what that moment on the bus was like.

     I especially liked the last stanza. The way I interpreted the line "That courtesy." was as an ironic statement. Courteous? They were not courteous. They were refusing to let a tired woman sit where she wanted even though she had paid her fare. By juxtaposing the courtesy of picking up Rosa's purse along with the discourtesy of forcing her from her seat, Rita shows how ridiculous the situation was.

~L.L. from St. Joe

This poem is my responce to the poem, "Maple Valle Branch Library, 1967." In that poem Rita describes her strong feelings for literature and how the world is put into books. My poem is about the same feelings towards music.

God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we would

Listen twice as much as we speak,

And oh, the music our world creates for us to listen to!

By putting on those magical headphones your soul is transported to

Such Great Heights.

You can hear Bittersweet Symphonies, soothing Lullabies, uplifting

Songs and heartwarming ballads.

There are lyrics to every emotion; they are the soundtracks to our lives.

From years of, "Happy Birthday," to, "Here Comes the Bride,"

To the sweet sound of trumpets calling out your final goodbye.

To each a memory is attached, to each a sentiment made.

And they will live

Time after Time.

Music is poetry put into motion,

With the backdrop of harmonies colliding and lifting each feeling up

Through a series of twists and turns before sinking into the very core of

Ourselves, we just

Let Go

It's the sound of birds, the voice of children, the dripping of rain,

Wherever you are

Across the Universe, there is music to accompany

Each breath and every step beyong the

Long and Winding Road.

You can choose to extract the meaning of each word, or Sail Away to

Another plane, with the beat pulsing cohesive with you inner drum, the

Music Feels like Home, it's a Bridge over Troubled Water and an escape

From the sometimes too cruel realities of life.

Each Complicated Melody tells its own story,

One of the mournful, regretful, and heartbrocken,

One of growing up and making mistakes in a blemished world,

Another of Day Dream Believers who seek the


Somehow we connect ourselves and trust with Both Eyes Blind.

Music can teach you through another's experience of

Karma, hardships, Strength, Courage, and Wisdom, love, and how to survive

In such a chaotic existence.

It's music people turn to when they are low, and music that they turn to

When they celebrate life's Sweet Emotions; they

Let the Music Do the Talking.

Before there was history, before late night TV,

Before words were formed on paper

Long before we tread through these path ways of life,

Music was made.

And after this is all gone,

We'll still have the choirs of angels.


I wrote this poem in response to "Lady Freedom Among Us."

they lower their eyes
     stare at the place they
     know they won't be going

they mutter     oh dear
there's another one     fly a flag
go bury a body

with her giant feet
with her heavy clothes
with her unmoving gaze and stoic face and hard features
she stands there     always standing

she has kept her hair out of her face
and the winds never disturb it      we won't let it

she holds a book     protects it
but never reads it     she knows it by heart

they look at her     but they never see her
she gazes ahead     and never sees them

they take pictures     we have her in our minds
they don't understand

her clothes are covered in filth
her figure once shiny and pure
her clothes worn out
she is just tired     and she still stands

do they forget her
no     they never had
her in their minds to forget


she is still there     though
they doubt her
her image
her purpose
her feathers and stars
her country

IC from SJHS

How they sat there, time and place set, a change to be made. sitting quiet, eyes forward, hours flew by, and nothing. closing time nearing, no turmoil yet. they shall try again tomorrow perhaps, a revolution will begin. -ian g

She sits on the seat and looks calm.

Her presence moves me.

She dons her sensible coat and lets

the passengers walk by, never complaining

as they stare at her for sitting up front and not being scared.

I feel her composure, and

it penetrates my soul and creates a lasting picture.

I can feel her aura and it speaks to me.

Not a shiver or hesitation exists in her voice, her calm voice.

Don't be afraid, says Rosa.


The Books have taught me many things:
how to read with the Bob books,
many useful and also some random facts,
interesting tidbits of information,
All between the bindings of books.

The Books have brought out many things:
unstoppable fits of laughter,
streaks of tears running down my face,
evil cackles full of power,
grins that conquer m whole face,
All between the bindings of books.

The Books have whispered many things:
"You can eat an elephant...if you take small bites."
"You can win soccer game at a time."
"You can help life at a time."
"You can end a war...if you take small steps."
All between the bindings of books.

The Books have shouted:
"That's what you're going to do!"
All that power between the bindings of books.

-KJ from SJHS

I was inspired by the line "crown her with sky" in the poem Lady Freedom among Us so I wrote this poem in response to it.

No matter how big or small you are,
The sky above the clouds
Is your crown to wear.
It only comes in one size,
But that one size fits all.

It comes in different goals,
Beliefs or plans.
It will set you free to achieve.
It is not expensive,
In fact,
It is as free as the warmth
From the rising sun.

It is encrusted with hand-cut confidence
And Surrounded by 24 caret self-esteem.
It is finished with a coating of accomplishment.

Try it on.
Do you like it?
Maybe it should be a little bit higher,
Because one day, you're going to outgrow it.
And then you're going to need a new one.

-D.M.G.F- from St. Joe High

How he lived,
so simple, so devotes,
Eroding away the years
of bitterness
with truthful eyes,
patient smile.

From boy to man to saint,
from rich to poor
to poorer still,
Owning less than
a common beggar.

Doing nothing was the doing,
And saying nothing was salvation;
The days in the cell,
The march to the sea.
The salt in his hands,
and hole in his chest.

What is there to be learned
from one who does now speak?
But lo, he did indeed
But never
talked back.


You can feel it,
taste it, and
maybe even see it.
There is freedom in the air.

It is not just in the air,
but also in the streets,
in our homes,
in our mind, soul, and body.
I can feel it and it is wonderful.

When a women is determined
to go against the fasions
of conformity... that is
her freedom.

Everyone has there own freedom,
all you have to do is find it.
It is excelent to have,
but horrible to take away,
or have taken from you.

Although this is true,
it is impossible to do.
There is freedom in the air,
and it is for everyone,
including you.


Good luck! Farewell! Bon voyage!
Godspeed to you as you make your journey down the aisles.
Fingers caressing
You lift a book from its place,
and slowly peak inside,
cracking its binding as its secrets are revealed.
Every book with its own story.
Every story with its own plot.
Every plot with its own secret.
You WILL uncover the secret of the elephant,
what lies inside its great belly.
Small bites. Small bites.
Your hunger will be satisfied.
You stomach full,
and your mind refreshed.
Your thoughts stirring,
emotions touched.
It's amazing.
The taste of one forkful.
It's addicting.
It's delicious.
It's knowledge.


How he stood there,
the perfect time to ignite revolution,
to lead his people to justice.

His strong name,
representing his role in the community.
Reinforcing his strength.

Dreaming was the doing:
convincing others to join his cause
as the cameras captured his heart and determination.

How he stood tall
when the people agreed with his dream,
showing their approval in thunderous cheers.


I wrote this poem in response to "Rosa." It was more of a self-reminder to always stay true to yourself and stand up for your beliefs. Never forget, that you can make a difference.

What is my destiny?
What I am I supposed to accomplish?
Am I going to be famous?
Where will I be twenty years from now?

All of these questions,
I do not know.

However, I do know that
I am here today
I will stand up for what I believe in
and I will always stay true to myself.

I know that I can make a difference.


She was not looking to start a riot.
She did not want to cause a problem.
Who knew what would happen in
the next few minutes.

As people board the open seats
are filled, one by one
"no I will not move,
I paid my fare."

They reach for her belongings.
Finally she stands. So proud
yet not respected.

With the cuffs on her wrists.
Her people believe she was right
for this, the time right
they fight, for those seats.
It is not only a seat.
It is their pride.


Bells ringing,
People dancing.
Can you hear it?
Freedom reigns throughout the air!

But the bells are cracked,
And the people have slowed.
Can you hear anything now?
Only a few haunting steps and voices echo through the night.

The fires once a-burning.
The flames once a-leaping.

Now only a few ghostly figures rise up out of the smoke.
Dancing the waltzes of days of lore,
From so long, long ago.

Rise from the smoke to reform!
Patch the cracked bells that ring without sound.
Silence the conformity!
Let Lady Freedom unveil the bells.
Let freedom ring!

~S.A.N. from SJHS

In this poem, one phrase particularly caught my eye."The clean flame of her gaze". The use of the word clean makes me feel that this is a pure, decent person, who knows  that what they're doing is right. The flame, in my opinion, represents determination and stubborness in support of her actions.

  This poem shows me how people can make their voices be heard without shouting but by taking action, in a peaceful way, and standing up for what's right.

Luke D. 

   After reading the poem entitled "Maple Valley Branch Library" I feel happy and inspired. Rita is trying to show us the power of literature and how it can relate to the world around us. The thirst for knowledge that is described in this poem is a feeling that I can relate to. Sometimes I find something that I am interested in and I just want to take it all in, and learn everything there is to know about it. Yet, at times we still feel like we are missing something. Rita says, "Tell me what you've read that keeps that half smile afloat above the collar of your impeccable blouse." Because we are still young it often seems like some things are being kept from us. I feel inspired after reading this poem. It makes me want to pick up literature of all topics and types, to expand my horizons, open my eyes, and see what is truly out there. We are capable of anything, even "eating an elephant-if we take small bites" Rita is encouraging us to embrace our capabilities.

Rachelle K.

   Lady Freedom symbolizes a normal American that will not say "oh no/not another one," but an American that will say "Carpe Diem" or "Seize the Day!"  She is not "another item to fit on a tourist's agenda."  She symbolizes each and every one of us, no matter where we came from.  Ever since the year she arrived as a gift from France, immigrants have looked upon her with hungry eyes, starving for a free life where they could have all they could have all that America has to offer.  Lady Freedom was and still symbolizes hope for a better life for oneself or their whole family, where they can start a new life in the land of hope and opportunity. I am glad that she is here and stands for each and every one of us.


So much waiting,
So much to discover,
In each book of life.

Finding a way to turn over,
A new word ,"mommy".
A world under a log,
filled with all these little creatures.

Your way around a huge building,
The way politics work in games,
The many different "things to do,"
that people come up with.

The last night to write a paper,
Going out late on a Wednesday night,
Sneeking out under the stars,
to meet a friend.

A year goes by like a month,
A month goes by like a week,
A week goes by like a day,
A day goes by like a minute,
Each minute a moment of discovery.


I like Maple Valley Branch Library 1967 because I can relate to it. I like reading big books just to say that I did it even if it takes me years.  I have a vast want of knowledge of everything: books, science, math, history, and everything you can imagine.  "I can eat an elephant if I take small bites" describes me very well because I usually try to do something all at once but soon realize that itis impossible.  Then, I quickly slow down and take a small "bite" at a time until the task is finished. LH

There was something about this poem that I really liked.  When I was younger, I viewed Rosa Parks as slightly embittered and defiant of the Jim Crow Laws, despite the fact that the first years of my elementary education were spent at a school called "Martin Luther King Junior Elementary."  After reading this poem, I now view her as courageous, and most definately in her right mind.  She knew the risk she was taking, and the spark she began turned into the fire of the Civil Rights Movement.

I was able to change my view after reading the line "Her sensible coat" in the poem.  The line gave me the image of Rosa Parks as a nice lady, and asserted her opinion by simply doing one thing:  refusing to give up her seat.  It's amazing that those three words can change my seven-years opinion.


One of my favorite things about Rita Dove's writing are the adjectives that she uses.  Words like "rhapsody," because it reminds me of the rockband Queen.  Or "lingered" because it seems to portray itself like onamatapoeia.

I also enjoy Dove's optimism, which can clearly be seen in the conclusion quote, "I can eat an elephant if I take small bites," and she finishes with "That's what I'm gonna do!"


The poem Enactment has been my favorite poem yet. I think it shows the thought out process of their decision to choose the perfect candidate to start the Civil Rights movement. This would be one of the most important decisions of the movement. The candidate that they chose sparked the passion that led to the freedom of many African Americans.

"This poem, to me, shows a girl who has a thirst for knowledge and an aray of never ending questions. This poem shows how a library can be the most fair place in the world, because it has knowledge from all places and people; it shows both sides to an argument, teaches forgotten stories, and triggers every emotion in the human body." 
     Personally, I do not like this book. Maybe I am a bad reader, maybe I'm just stubborn, or maybe I'm just not open enough, but the things this book writes about just do not grab me at all. I respect that it touches other people, but all it evokes in me in sympathy for all the victims of predujice leading up to and through the civil rights movement. Maybe I'm just being rash, and missing the point completely, and misreading how I am really feeling about this book, but that's how I feel at the present time.


      This is a poem that has so much passion and truth in it.  Rita did an excellent job at showing how strongly she believes in what she writes.  She is very firm in this poem becuase she believes in this so strongly.  It seems as if she is describing how we should all be ourselves.  This statue is a representation of us all.  It represents the poor, the rich, the weak, the strong, the fortunate and those who happen to be less fortunate than others.  This statue stands for something but do we all know what it stands for?  Do we all really see it as a symbol?  We should not be ashamed to see it as it really stands.  When Rita says "don't lower your eyes", this is a perfect example of how we should not be ashamed. We should look to follow our beliefs.  This statue is a part of all of us.


The poem Enactment has been my favorite poem yet. I think it shows the thought out process of their decision to choose the perfect candidate to start the Civil Rights movement. This would be one of the most important decisions of the movement. The candidate that they chose sparked the passion that led to the freedom of many African Americans.


See how she stands:

Facing the vast open waters

Watching her children come home.

Welcoming all with her gaze.


See how she stands:

Her back turned to her country

In a protective but unseeing way


What would she think, if she

Was to be turned on her pedestal

To look upon her lands?


She would soak up all that America is

And her defensive, protecting face

Woud begin to smile

As she turned back to take her post again


By: Hayley Elizabeth

Ten cents dropped with pain into

the black box at the front of the bus.

My dues have been paid.


As I  wander down the center isle...

I have no place to go. 

I follow my destiny to the back of the bus,

Where my life began and will surly end.


I sat there in a bus full of people

But it was as though I was along in the cuel world.

Bakers Street, Lake Boulevard, Park Avenue;

We had crossed the shady line.


As we moved closer to the center, the bus filled,

My soul was empty and eventually collapsed.

10 more people got on the 15 people sat...20 seats...5 were open...

"Yet all were occupied."  I was the only colored person...

But I sat down anyways.

And have not gotten up since.

s murali

Walk among us.

Talk among us.

Breath among us.


She seems plain and ugly

and maybe she is but that is how she must be:

open and brave to the world with nothing to hide.

And that is why she is among us.


She is seen talking with a businessman on Wall Street,

his briefcase

held in hands soft and uncallused.

She is seen talking with a homeless man on Fifth Ave,

his styrofoam cup

held in hands wrapped in dirty torn old newspaper he found long ago.

She is among all of us.










She is among us.

And everyone there knows why.

-Ryan B.

A library is full of wisdom and sharing

Filled with different topics and books of every size.

As I help recycle old run down books at the local library, (tearing the covers off and recycling the pages), I smell the scents of the torn, but loved pages that people just couldn't put down.

Biographies, Technology, Romance, Sports and Travel.

All different books.

Each one with a story to tell and one to tell about the people that read its pages.

The smearing of ink.

The fainted color of the used to be powder white pages.

The smell of people not being able to put down the story, wondering if Juliet would end up with her Romeo.

The torn edges from being taken to school and shoved in a backpack just waiting to be read some more.

Yes, each book has its own personal story to tell and is put on a shelf just waiting for the right person to come along and experience the journey it has to offer.


   I like the quote before the poem,"I'm just a girl who people were mean to on a bus...I could have been anybody."  The people who wanted a reform had a set idea of what would work - a poor, pregnant, un-married, teenager who nobody respected would not work for them.  I think that that is what this poem is about - a comparison between (Mary Ware) and Rosa Parks.  I belive it was the NAACP that/who was trying to put this all together - this poem is their convorsation: the discussion of what to do.

   Later in the poem (the last stanza)...
   "can she stand up and exhale,
   can she walk out the cell
   and down the jail steps
   into the flashbulbs and
   her employer's white
   arms - and go home,
   and sit down in the seat
   we have prepared for her."

It seems like the last stanza represents the achievement of the NAACP's goal - they finally got representation for justice and a chance for change.

-Linnea P.

Sitting Down so harmlessly

Not even hurting or disturbing anyone.

Resting after a long day

Tired of getting up,

Remaining in the seat,

Nonviolent are the actions

Doing nothing but sitting in a seat.

Sitting in a seat was the protest,

Along come the law forces

To hold up the justice

But no justice is served.

Making a difference

By sitting in a seat.


she's next to me

here   now   forever

as she whispers in my ear

her hair brushes my cheek

and the room falls silent




and her silvery silhouette

slips past me


she dances around the room

laughing   twirling   beaming

our eyes connect - hers as green

as a forest of pine trees

and in an instant she is gone


but I have her inspiration

her spirt

her fire

and I dance   and twirl   and beam


--04/20/05  Steph S.


The time right inside a place

so wrong it was right.

She didn't know she would be watched

but they were watching her every move,

or lack there of.

They needed a strong, respectable

representative to lead the way,

to break the barrier.

She didn't know she was helping

but it couldn't have been done

without her.


She stands there,

tall and proud against the skyline.

Not any one person,

but every American to ever exist.

So powerful for one with no voice

to be heard.

She is the sign of hope,

Freedom, Liberty,

Peace and Welcome.

She is America,

The one, the only.

Our Lady Liberty



(This is a poetic Response to Lady Freedom among us)


I liked the message I personally got from this poem, which is you'll never know what you are capable of accomplishing if you don't try.             Kristin


I like the tone of this poem and the joyous way that Rita Dove describes the morning pleasures.                                                                   Jared


I like this poem because I get the same feeling of wanting to stay in a specific moment forever, and hoping that sometimes the future will never come and things will never stray from how perfect that moment is.                       Sara


In the Poem "Lady Freedom Among Us" Rita Dove uses the words "whiskers" and "bigboned" to describe this incredibly significant statue. I was wondereing why she would use words with such negative connotations to describe such an inspirational piece. In my opinion it's because she wanted this statue to seem more average, making it easier for her to relate to the average people of which she stands for. If anyone has any other suggestion I'd be happy to read them.
These poems were required.

“Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967”
“Lady Freedom Among Us”

These optional poems (based on the survey will be taken in this order)
Options - Decided by survey.
“The Enactment”
“Dawn Revisited”
“For Sophie, Who’ll Be in First Grade in the Year 2000”

Depending on the length of Ms. Dove's answers we may not get to all of these poems, but your students should be prepared to ask questions about them.


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