Rita Dove’s slickly written poems are professional in a completely professional way. Her poems have a message, though rarely a subtle message—more often it’s a billboard or full-page ad. I understand why Black poets, particularly ones as venerated as the former poet laureate (sixteen honorary doctorates and counting), are under pressure to be Role Models and write Public Poetry that will instill Ethnic Pride and Celebrate Diversity (such poets’ dreams are in Capital Letters). On the Bus with Rosa Parks is less a book of poetry than a public relations exercise.[1]

When you live the public life too long, when you’re used to standing on stage with celebrities speaking to celebrities, receiving Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year Award or the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement (can such a thing exist?), when university...


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