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The Venus Hottentot: Poems

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  122 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, di
...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Graywolf Press (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 243)
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Michelle
Jun 24, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2012
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
...more
Robert Beveridge
Aug 19, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it really liked it
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
...more
emm
Aug 19, 2014 emm rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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"
poet...

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
...more
theri
Mar 26, 2007 theri rated it really liked it
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
Oct 08, 2007 Erica Freeman rated it really liked it
Written by a professor I had at Haverford. ..one 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.
Andrea
Aug 21, 2009 Andrea rated it liked it
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.
Marthe
Apr 21, 2014 Marthe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tracy
Dec 13, 2012 Tracy rated it liked it
Some poems hit the mark, others not so much.
Aichlee
Dec 28, 2007 Aichlee rated it really liked it
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.

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