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The Venus Hottentot: Poems

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  104 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Elizabeth Alexander's highly praised first collection is available once again

I didn't want to write a poem that said "blackness
is," because we know better than anyone
that we are not one or ten or ten thousand things
Not one poem
-from "Today's News"

Originally published in 1990 to widespread acclaim, The Venus Hottentot introduces Elizabeth Alexander's vital poetic voice, dis
Paperback, 64 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Graywolf Press (first published 1990)
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Out of this collection, the title poem really serves as the benchmark. "The Venus Hottentot" is divine. I would quote it in its entirety for lines like:

In the newspaper lithograph
my buttocks are shown swollen
and luminous as a planet.

Monsieur Cuvier investigates
between my legs, poking, prodding,
sure of his hypothesis.
I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehend, but I speak

English. I speak Dutch. I speak
Robert Beveridge
Elizabeth Alexander, The Venus Hottentot (University Press of Virginia, 1990)

I started a number of poetry volumes over the weekend, including a much-anticipated one from one of my favorite poets, and none of them captured me the way The Venus Hottentot did. Elizabeth Alexander has a wonderful voice, and she knows how to craft it into strong, yet delicate, poems:

“I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehe
When I first started reading this book,around 4 or 5 years ago,I remember instantly liking it and mentally engraving "Elizabeth Alexander"into my head and thinking something like,'I did'nt know there were black poets like this...'It's amazing to look back now and to see how little I knew about the art of poetry and about myself to become a more "creative"

After re-reading, this book left me with 2 new favorite poems.The first is 'Zodiac' because,you know,what is it about about that first
I read this after hearing her read at a museum. I really loved the imagery and the simple language. it breathed life into some things that I had become so familiar with. For those that are unfamiliar with the idea of the Venus Hottentot, Alexander is a great poetic start. She nuances and plays with the image from a variety of perspectives. It's a great book.

Be aware of the jazz references. If you can't decipher them, it is okay but knowing them does enhance your experience of the poems.
Erica Freeman
Written by a professor I had at Haverford. of the best teachers I've ever had...brilliant, funny, talented, inspired and inspiring...beautiful poems...her first book, I believe.

Considered her as mentor.
I think "The Venus Hottentot” is the best poem in the collection. Many of the other sections work to reclaim historical figures, but not as well. I also really like her childhood poems.
Dazzling look into history, gender, and race, these poems range from personal memory to cultural history to human personae.
Tara Betts
This is the version that I have of THE VENUS HOTTENTOT. Now, it's on Graywolf Press.
Some poems hit the mark, others not so much.
Dec 28, 2007 Aichlee rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poets, anyone.
Shelves: poetry
precise, gorgeous language.
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Elizabeth Alexander is a Quantrell Award-winning American poet, essayist, playwright, university professor, and scholar of African-American literature and culture. She teaches English language/literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Alexander was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard during the 2007-08 academic year.

Alexander's po
More about Elizabeth Alexander...
American Sublime: Poems Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009 Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 Antebellum Dream Book The Black Interior: Essays

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