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Thomas and Beulah
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Thomas and Beulah

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  753 ratings  ·  45 reviews
The poems in this unusual book tell a story, forming a narrative almost like a realistic novel. Read in sequence as intended, they tell of the lives of a married black couple (not unlike Dove's own grandparents) from the early part of the century until their deaths in the 1960s, a period that spans the great migration of blacks from rural south to urban north. But this is ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published January 1st 1986 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press
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Community Reviews

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This was deliciously well-done; Dove is witty and touching and lyrically adept. I found the two halves so brilliantly complementary that I couldn't easily say that I preferred one to the other; in both, she dissects disappointment so skillfully, so lovingly.* It's striking how artfully she constructs the two figures as mirrored, both pigeonholed into the roles society has fashioned for them--Thomas haunted by the loss of his first love (platonic or otherwise) and Beulah struggling against the re ...more
Ann Keller
I really enjoyed this wonderful view of the history of the Akron area. The poems about constructing gigantic zeppelins were especially intriguing.
Sep 29, 2015 Grace rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Grace by: Literary Ohio
Shelves: for-class
To start off, I like the way this book feels in my hands. The cover is a pleasing texture and the thin paperback poetry books are always flexible and light on the hands. I appreciate that this book is based in Akron, Ohio. Can't say that about many of the Pulitzer-prize winners! This is not my favorite collection of poetry, nor does it contain any of my favorite poems. However, there is something endearing and very normal about the poetry topics. The fact that the normal stories of Akronites are ...more
After reading and reviewing this Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poetry, I felt a slight note of disappointment and I wasn’t sure why. I flipped back through and re-read some of the poems I had taken notes on, trying to formulate a cogent response to the text, when I realized what triggered my letdown. For whatever reasons (one of which being a stereotype I didn’t even realize I had about African American female poets), I was expecting a scathingly political dissection of these two characters, ...more
I'm not a fan of poetry in general. In fact after all I've read, during school and out I have probably only enjoyed two at most so it should come as no shock that even though Rita Dove's Thomas And Beulah won a Pulitzer Prize I am just not a fan.

It consists of a little more than 40 pieces broken down into two sections and seems to be centered around Thomas and Beulah and their lives before and after getting together.
Robert Beveridge
Rita Dove, Thomas and Beulah (1987, Carnegie Mellon)

Rita Dove won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with Thomas and Beulah, and it's pretty easy to see why. Dove's poetic biography of her ancestors is hyperkinetic, jazz-infused poetry rooted in the Depression, full of life, sass, and vinegar. Nothing is sacred, from motherhood ("She dreams the baby's so small she keeps/misplacing it") to death ("Later he'll say Death stepped right up/to shake his hand, then squeezed/until he sank to his knees."
It was ok . . . it's not something I would pick up voluntarily. It's part of my masters written exam in a week, so I had to read it. I like writing poetry, but reading it is tougher. I think this collection of poems is hit or miss. There are a few I enjoyed and understood. Others are so abstract that I felt lost and confused. Wish me luck on the exam!
This was too depressing, although, I quite liked "Variations On Gaining A Son." Thomas's poems were sad but better. I don't get what the point of Beulah's version was.
(Read in the collection Selected Poems.)
Shoot. Jeannine told me I should read this, given the current trajectory of my thesis, and she wasn't wrong. These poems are elegant imaginings of Dove's family history rendered in such an understated way. Offering the two halves of the story of Thomas and Beulah, the book paints such a stark picture of Depression-era and WWII family life. I'm going to have to work my way back through this again.
Jeffrey Bumiller
Rita Dove's haunting and beautiful book Thomas and Beulah won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and I can see why. These very layered, very distant, yet somehow extremely emotional poems trace the life of Thomas and Beulah, the two characters who are loosely based on Rita Dove's grandparents. I would like to get to know them better, so I will be reading this one again someday.
I read this book in about two hours and immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again, slower this time, so I could savor the imagery and beauty in the simplistic details. This is the far superior precursor to the modern novel in verse. It is a story woven by poetry rather than a story forced into poetic form. No wonder it won the Pulitzer.
Jr Pella
I don't ordinarily like to read poetry, but Rita Dove's sentences are so elegant and pretty! There's not a lot of anger in her voice, only pensiveness and sorrow. One of my favorite poems in this collection/novel/whatever was the Chinese dancer one.
This book was helpful in the writing of my chapbook of poems about my grandma. This is about Rita Dove's Grandparents. It's chronological, and meant to be read that way, so if you've ever seen a poem from should read the whole thing.
We are not always sadness and despair as it relates to society’s treatment of us. I found it quite refreshing that a Black woman poet could write an entire book of poems about... (check out for full review)
A modern classic, this novel in verse turns family history into poetry. From a spectacular fall from a dirigible to a slow motion bridal bouquet toss, this pair of husband and wife narratives sparks with beauty.
Austen to Zafón
Aug 28, 2013 Austen to Zafón marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
WHY I WANT TO READ IT: Dove was the first African American poet laureate and this book of poems about the life of her grandparents in the first half of the twentieth century won the Pulitzer for poetry.
Sometimes a narrative can be fun. A great story all in all. My favorite moment came upon the purchase of a used encyclopedia set missing the Z book (or something similar). And suddenly, there were no zebras.
I love the muscularity of Dove's poetics. There were moments where the language felt so crisp, the comparisons spot on. After reading a lot of mediocre poetry in the past week, this was a relief, gorgeous.
James Grinwis

The scope, structure, and arc of this book is what is truly amazing. Absent is the first person (except in terms of the characters therein). A family biography in poems. Outstanding.
Apr 19, 2007 lauren rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who don't mind a good love story, in poems
i've read this book so many times you can't tell me i don't know thomas and beulah. i love their story, i love the poems. it always leaves me wanting more, so i start reading it again.
Amanda Bryan
I found this poetry collection to be a bit too coded-- containing symbols very specific to the author without much literary precedence (provides much ambiguity and confusion when reading).
it was a really quick read. I was startled by the change in voice between thomas and beulah. It's amazing how two people in a relationship can see things so differently.
I probably would have liked this book more if I liked poetry more. But it was a book for class so I read it. I think it's really cool the way the poems tell a story though.
very interesting book of poetry. never read a poetry book that sequenced as a story. the timeline at the end was a nice touch to understand what happened with the characters
I first read these poems in 1994 and keep coming back to it. It the story of a relationship. Half of the poems are in Thomas' voice and half are in Beulah's. Beautiful.
Had the pleasure of not only reading this book of poetry, but discussing it with one of Rita Dove's former students - a creative soul.
Mar 04, 2008 M added it
got into Dove after reading . this one feels a little more focused in the scope of its narrative. like them both
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Rita Dove, former U.S. Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and musician, lives in Charlottesville, where she is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
More about Rita Dove...
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