Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems (Hardcover)
If this were an awards show (and it would take a fancy evening to list Dove's prizes and accomplishments), Rita Dove would be the special guest that every shiny-toothed presenter would say “needs no introduction”. She also seems to need no time to catch her breath in this masterful and far-ranging collection that constructs varied forms with seamless ease but keeps each line so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. These poems stalk through the decades and seasons; flirt with opera, travel, and everyday pleasures; and then turn to sink their teeth into war and race and rage. -Lara
A piercing, unflinching new volume offers necessary music for our tumultuous present, from “perhaps the best public poet we have” (Boston Globe).
In her first volume of new poems in twelve years, Rita Dove investigates the vacillating moral compass guiding America’s, and the world’s, experiments in democracy. Whether depicting the first Jewish ghetto in sixteenth-century Venice or the contemporary efforts of Black Lives Matter, a girls’ night clubbing in the shadow of World War II or the doomed nobility of Muhammad Ali’s conscious objector stance, this extraordinary poet never fails to connect history’s grand exploits to the triumphs and tragedies of individual lives.
Meticulously orchestrated and musical in its forms, Playlist for the Apocalypse collects a dazzling array of voices: an elevator operator simmers with resentment, an octogenarian dances an exuberant mambo, a spring cricket philosophizes with mordant humor on hip hop, critics, and Valentine’s Day. Calamity turns all too personal in the book’s final section, “Little Book of Woe,” which charts a journey from terror to hope as Dove learns to cope with debilitating chronic illness.
At turns audaciously playful and grave, alternating poignant meditations on mortality and acerbic observations of injustice, Playlist for the Apocalypse takes us from the smallest moments of redemption to catastrophic failures of the human soul. Listen up, the poet says, speaking truth to power; what you’ll hear in return is “a lifetime of song.”
About the Author
Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate, is the only poet honored with both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. Her recent works include Playlist for the Apocalypse, Sonata Mulattica, and the National Book Award–shortlisted Collected Poems: 1974–2004. In 2021 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Charlottesville, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia.