By Rita Dove

Full Poem

Back when the earth was new

and heaven just a whisper,

back when the names of things

hadn't had time to stick;

back when the smallest breezes

melted summer into autumn,

when all the poplars quivered

sweetly in rank and file . . .

the world called, and I answered.

Each glance ignited to a gaze.

I caught my breath and called that life,

swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet.

I was pirouette and flourish,

I was filigree and flame.

How could I count my blessings

when I didn't know their names?

Back when everything was still to come,

luck leaked out everywhere.

I gave my promise to the world,

and the world followed me here.

Interpretation + Theme

Rita has felt from a young age that her purpose in life is to be a poet. A theme in this poem of growing up illustrates that she feels as she gets older she can better accomplish her poetry.
Rita Dove

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About the Author

Writer Rita Dove (1952-) was the youngest person and the first African American to be appointed Poet Laureate Consultant by the Library of Congress. She has also won the Pulitzer for her book Thomas and Beulah.

Born on August 28, 1952 in Akron, Ohio, African-American poet Rita Dove loved poetry and music from a young age. She was an exceptional student and was invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar out of high school. She studied in Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship, later teaching creative writing at Arizona State University. She has won numerous awards for her work, including a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for the book of poetry Thomas and Beulah. Other books from Dove include Mother Love and Sonata Mulattica.