A piercing, unflinching new volume offers necessary music for our tumultuous present, from “perhaps the best public poet we have” (Boston Globe).
In her first volume of new poems in twelve years, Rita Dove investigates the vacillating moral compass guiding America’s, and the world’s, experiments in democracy. Whether depicting the first Jewish ghetto in sixteenth-century Venice or the contemporary efforts of Black Lives Matter, a girls’ night clubbing in the shadow of World War II or the doomed nobility of Muhammad Ali’s conscious objector stance, this extraordinary poet never fails to connect history’s grand exploits to the triumphs and tragedies of individual lives.
Meticulously orchestrated and musical in its forms, Playlist for the Apocalypse collects a dazzling array of voices: an elevator operator simmers with resentment, an octogenarian dances an exuberant mambo, a spring cricket philosophizes with mordant humor on hip hop, critics, and Valentine’s Day. Calamity turns all too personal in the book’s final section, “Little Book of Woe,” which charts a journey from terror to hope as Dove learns to cope with debilitating chronic illness.
At turns audaciously playful and grave, alternating poignant meditations on mortality and acerbic observations of injustice, Playlist for the Apocalypse takes us from the smallest moments of redemption to catastrophic failures of the human soul. Listen up, the poet says, speaking truth to power; what you’ll hear in return is “a lifetime of song.”
Readings & Interviews
- Reading and conversation with Adrienne Su, Politics and Prose Bookstore (August 9, 2021)
- "By the Book," The New York Times (August 6, 2021)
- With Chet'la Sebree, Guernica (August 11, 2021)
- With Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch (August 15, 2021)
- Meredith Boe, Chicago Review of Books, "Reflections on Democracy and Individuality in 'Playlist for the Apocalypse'" (August 4, 2021)
- Dwight Garner, The New York Times, "In 'Playlist for the Apocalypse,' the Weight of American History and of Mortality" (August 9, 2021)
- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review of Playlist for the Apocalypse (August 14, 2021)
- Carolyn Oliver, Heavy Feather Review (October 21, 2021)
- Amy R. Martin, Southern Review of Books, "'Playlist for the Apocalypse': A Masterful Blend of the Personal with the Political" (November 19, 2021)
- Luther Hughes, Poetry Northwest, "When the Years are Gone: On Playlist for the Apocalypse by Rita Dove" (November 29, 2021)