Read Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove Online


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 isThe 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 merely the social backdrop to the story of a marriage. Two separate sequences offer two views of the couple's lives: the first, "Mandolin," consists of 23 poems giving Thomas's side, and "Canary in Bloom" gives Beulah's in 21 poems. Together they paint a detailed, poetically dense portrait of two lives in all their frailty, dignity and complexity. The collection was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1987....

Title : Thomas and Beulah
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780887480218
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 80 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Thomas and Beulah Reviews

  • Brandon
    2019-05-16 19:47

    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 repression of her potential--while also drawing out their differences.My favorite poems: "Compendium," "Aircraft," "Aurora Borealis," and "The Stroke" from "Mandolin"; and "Promises," "Motherhood," "Daystar," "Pomade," and "Company" from "Canary in Bloom."*Although, if pressed, I would probably opt for Beulah's.

  • David
    2019-04-25 22:36

    I'm going to dock a star for the time being because I'm legitimately baffled as to why this ended with "The Oriental Ballerina". This was really great—I read it twice back to back—but the purpose of "The Oriental Ballerina" continues to elude me. Especially as a closing number. But so many moments of stunning, quiet beauty that I'll probably up this to a full 5 eventually

  • Dan Simmons
    2019-05-26 14:38

    I enjoy Rita Dove’s poetry but tend to come away from her work feeling as if she has exposed a deficiency in my poetry reading skill because I don’t absolutely love her work. This feeling has intensified after attending her delightful reading at OSU earlier this year and after reading this collection, which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Once again, I enjoyed this collection, but did not absolutely love it (pitiful, I know). That said, I think these two poems from this collection are especially memorable.Roast Possum The possum’s a greasy critterthat lives on persimmons and whatthe Bible calls carrion.So much from the 1909 WernerEncyclopedia, three rows of deep greenalong the wall. A granddaughterpropped on each knee,Thomas went on with his tale – but it was for Malcolm, littleRed Delicious, that he inventedembellishments: We shined that possumwith a torch and I shinnied up,being the smallest,to shake him down. He glared at me,teeth bared like a shark’sin that torpedo snout.Man he was tough but no matchfor old-time know-how.Malcolm hung back, studying themwith his gold hawk eyes. When the girlsgot restless, Thomas talked horses:Strolling Jim, who could balancea glass of water on his backand trot the village squarewithout spilling a drop. Who putWartrace on the map and was buriedunder a stone, like a man.They liked that part.He could have gone on to tell themthat was the Werner admitted Negro childrento be intelligent, though brisknessclouded over at puberty, bringingindirection and laziness. Instead,he added: You got to be carefulwith a possum when he’s on the ground;he’ll turn on his back and play deadtill you give up looking. That’swhat you’d call sullin’.Malclom interrupted to askwho owned Strolling Jim,and who paid for the tombstone.They stared each other downman to man, before Thomas,as a grandfather, replied:                                        Yessir,we enjoyed that possum. We ate himreal slow, with sweet potatoes.Motherhood She dreams the baby’s so small she keepsmisplacing it – it rolls from the hutchand the mouse carries it home, it disappearswith his shirt in the wash.Then she drops it and it explodeslike a watermelon, eyes spitting.Finally they get to the countryside;Thomas has it in a sling.He’s strewing rice along the roadwhile the trees chitter with tiny birds.In the meadow to their right three menare playing rough with a white wolf. She callswarning but the wolf breaks freeand she runs, the rattlerolls into the gully, then she’sthere and tossing the baby’s behind her,listening for its cry as she straddlesthe wolf and circles its throat, countinguntil her thumbs push through to the earth.White fur seeps red. She is hardly breathing.The small wild eyesgo opaque with confusion and shame, like a child’s.

  • Esther
    2019-05-19 21:42


  • D.A. Gray
    2019-05-07 16:56

    This is not my first reading and it won't be my last. Thomas and Beulah is a great love letter from the poet to her grandparents, and whether or not the stories contained are exact they provide the kind of truth that only a poet can give.Splitting the collection into two strong Points of View, shows art dealing with opposites, male/female, light/dark, black/white -- the poems start in a place that feel deeply personal. But the great poems that start with the personal, by being specific touch on something revealing about their culture and the history. This collection has much to teach about the Northern Migration and the effects of race, economics, labor and segregation on the psyche. Worth multiple reads.

  • Grace
    2019-05-08 18:38

    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 being told is something remarkable in and of itself. Thomas and Beulah, "were good, / though [they] never believed it" (74). A very unromantic relationship, but a real one, is unfolded in the pages of this book, with plenty of canaries and quite a few mandolins for good measure.

  • Angie Orlando
    2019-04-25 18:47

    What a beautiful story about a man and woman, told in both voices, who marry in Akron, Ohio 1920's. This book follows the black migration northward and ends up in my own area. But this is a time period and culture so unlike mine. I had trouble understanding some of the poems, although I highly appreciate Dove's imagery and lyrical quality. It is helpful to read the timeline at the end of the book and then re-read the poems.

  • Jeffrey Bumiller
    2019-05-06 17:35

    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.

  • Kathryn
    2019-04-27 22:57

    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.

  • Rita
    2019-04-25 18:40

    Many like this book of poems loosely about lives of maternal grandparents.Gabrielle Foreman in 'Miss Puppet Lady', WRB March 1993 review of novel of childhood 'Through the Ivory Gate ' is not positive about this book, tho I would probably find it interesting to read. It seems from Wikipedia that she has not written any more novels, but plenty of poetry, plays etc.

  • Rachel
    2019-05-15 19:56

    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.

  • Ann Keller
    2019-04-28 17:01

    I really enjoyed this wonderful view of the history of the Akron area. The poems about constructing gigantic zeppelins were especially intriguing.

  • Ann
    2019-05-12 16:44

    Rita Dove tells her grandparents' story through poetry.

  • John Molina
    2019-05-25 14:40

    I do not feel equipped to critique poetry. This was beautiful though, like the shine in your morning coffee

  • Abby
    2019-05-16 19:42

    (Read in the collection Selected Poems.)

  • Tristan
    2019-05-03 16:47

    So I finally caught up to my semester today and read all of Thomas and Beulah in a single sitting. Dove's poems are fluid and accessible, capturing two lives in episodes to provide a multifaceted picture of the title characters. If anyone ever asserts that Black experience cannot be universal, this collection proves a magnificent counter-example, giving immense personal and cultural specificity to the characters while presenting a story that resonates far beyond the boundaries of their milieu. The book is divided into two balanced sections, "Mandolin" and "Canary in Bloom", the first telling Thomas's side of the story until his death, the second Beulah's until hers. One emblematic poem for the collection is "Nightmare" from near the end of "Canary in Bloom": She's dreamingof salt again:salt stinging her eyes,making pepper of her hair,salt in her pantiesand the light all over.If she wakesshe'll find himgone and the dogbarking its tail off,locked outside in thedead of night.Lids pinched shut,she forces the itchingaway. That streetlampthrough the window:iridescent grit. As a girlshe once openedan umbrella in the houseand her mother criedyou'll ruin us!but that was solong ago. Thenshe wakes up. These poems fit together into a gentle and affecting narrative of life that shows the characters in the light of their varied experience within their specific chronological, racial, and socioeconomic situation.

  • Amy
    2019-05-20 18:35

    What strikes me most about this two-sided story is the great amount of disappointment that existed, even at the heights of life, such as weddings and births, and throughout daily life as well. Dove successfully creates a male and a female character: their concerns and fears, desires and disappointments. Thomas longs for sons, for Lem, for his houndstooth vest, for his South; Beulah longs for time alone, for Paris, for a man of distinct tastes, for magic, but neither he nor she is fulfilled. Dove shows there is an incredible amount of the individual life that co-exists with the "couple life." I first read this years ago in my grad program, and upon the second reading just last night, I feel I absorbed so much better, more deeply, the feeling and the images. I really dig the telling of the "same story" from both partners involved, and how that same story is utterly different.

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-27 15:35

    granted, I have little experience reading poetry, but I found this to be an interesting yet at times perplexing collection. some of the characterizations of the title couple are quite compelling and touching, but other times I wasn't sure what to make of her imagery, or able to read as deeply into her meaning as I would have liked.

  • Mike Jensen
    2019-05-06 21:42

    This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, so Ms. Dove hardly needs my advice on how she should have written it. There are gaps in the stories she tells about Thomas and Beulah that keep me from following the arcs of their lives and prevents me from caring as much as I wanted to care. The timeline in the back of the book helps, but not enough. I'm not even sure who Thomas and Beulah were. I would have assumed her parents, but Dove's mother's name was Elvira Elizabeth, which I know because the collection is dedicated to her. Her maternal grandparents? Possibly, but knowing that would have also helped make the lives of this couple and their struggles more concrete for me. There are certainly things to admire in this book, but it did not truly reach me.

  • Becca Terrill
    2019-05-14 15:56

    I'm not a huge fan of poetry and this book of poems was hard to get into and hard to follow at times. Once you got into it though it was a good story about a family being raised in Akron in the early 1900s. I liked the timeline at the end so I could check my following and understanding about what the overall story the author was telling in her poems.

  • Rebekah
    2019-05-09 19:42

    I'm not normally a poetry reader, and I had to force myself to read this slowly and intentionally rather than following the story by flipping pages like a novel. But I'm glad it did. Poetry leaves much space for thinking and reading between the lines, and this book of poems had a whole family's worth of history there.

  • Steven
    2019-05-02 18:41

    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, wrought with searing details about a life of poverty and oppression, in the vain of Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker or Sapphire. Instead, Dove’s poems are mannered meditations on the hard life of Depression and World War II era families, written in a tight free verse that echoes the styles of Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath. In forty-four poems, in which each word feels measured and weighed for its precise effect, Dove evokes the destitution of a generation who lost much of the music, art and promise of romantic love due to crippling economic and social pressures. Surely, race and racism play a part in this family’s life, but it is not the focus of Dove’s scrutiny. So, although my initial reading wasn’t packed with visceral responses, I will return to these poems in the future to continue to analyze their exquisitely orchestrated effects.

  • Robert Beveridge
    2019-05-10 14:34

    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."), and some contemporary jabs mixed in ("...Joanna saying/'Mother, we're Afro-Americans now!'/What did she know about Africa?"). Dove has been one of America's shining poetic voices for two decades now, and there's never not a right time to go back and revisit this stunning collection. Perhaps her strongest work. ****

  • Beverlee
    2019-05-21 19:03

    I'm not a poetry fan, so reading Thomas & Beulah is a huge departure. I was quite surprised that I enjoyed reading, though I'm sure I didn't quite grasp the full meaning. I feel Thomas & Beulah is a love story, one that is honest & expresses the full range of emotions. One thing that was new to me was learning more about Akron's history & relationship with the black community. My overall impression is this is a collection I'll have to read multiple times to really grasp what Mrs. Dove is writing.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-12 17:47

    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.

  • Angie
    2019-05-05 19:57

    Major Field Prep: 100/133 (100!!!)This Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry is meant to be read sequentially, first detailing the life of Thomas in the first section "Mandolin" and then of his wife Beulah in the second section, "Canary in Bloom." While the two characters and lives are presented in isolation, the poems almost exclusively dealing with the characters in private, the collection can only be fully understood and the symbols unpacked when considered across the sections.

  • LeAnn
    2019-05-22 22:54

    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!

  • Ellice
    2019-04-27 20:55

    This wasn't my favorite book of Rita Dove's poetry, but given how amazing she is, it was still quite good. She tells the story of a romantic relationship by writing a series of poems first from his side, then from hers. It's interesting to see how things are interpreted by each side.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-25 16:47

    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.

  • Nakia
    2019-04-29 18:46

    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)