Poetry Sunday: “Chocolate,” by Rita Dove


Velvet fruit, exquisite square
I hold up to sniff
between finger and thumb—

how you numb me
with your rich attentions!
If I don’t eat you quickly,

you’ll melt in my palm.
Pleasure seeker, if I let you
you’d liquefy everywhere.

Knotted smoke, dark punch
of earth and night and leaf,
for a taste of you

any woman would gladly
crumble to ruin.
Enough chatter: I am ready

to fall in love!


From American Smooth (W.W. Norton & Co. 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Rita Dove. Used by permission of the author. American Smooth is available for order here and here.



Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar as one of the 100 top American high school graduates that year, she received her BA at Miami University in 1973 and, after a year as a Fulbright Scholar at Universität Tübingen in Germany, her MFA at the University of Iowa in 1977. In 1987, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book Thomas and Beulah, and from 1993-1995 she served as US Poet Laureate. She was also, from 2004 to 2006, Poet Laureate of Virginia. Author of a novel, a short story collection, a book of essays, and nine volumes of poetry—most recently Sonata Mulattica (winner of the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award) and Collected Poems 1974-2004 (a National Book Award finalist and winner of the 2016 NAACP Image Award in Literature and the 2017 Library of Virginia Award for Poetry)—and she is the editor of The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011). Her song cycle Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony, and her play The Darker Face of the Earth had successful runs at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues.

Rita Dove’s numerous literary and academic honors include Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Library of Virginia and the Fulbright Association, as well as twenty-seven honorary doctorates, most recently from Harvard University. Recipient of the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama, Rita Dove is the only poet to have been honored with both national medals. She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and held chancellorships at the honor society Phi Beta Kappa as well as at the Academy of American Poets. A member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she is a Commonwealth Professor at the University of Virginia, where she has been teaching creative writing since 1989. Currently she also serves as editor of The New York Times Magazine’s weekly poetry feature.

Read an article about Dove’s weekly poetry feature here (“NYT Magazine’s Rita Dove on What Poetry Might Grant Unsuspecting News Readers,” by Brendan Fitzgerald, Columbia Journalism Review, 5/25/18.)

Listen to Dove reading “Chocolate” here, and two other poems from American Smooth, “Foxtrot  Fridays” and “Singson,” here.

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  • Juliet sharrock February 17, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Good article