Thomas and Beulah
Author: Rita Dove
Publisher: Carnegie Mellon University Press (1986)
Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
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 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.