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Summer Tales 2021

Summer Tales is a virtual community for students taking classes remotely. It promises short mental breaks from coursework through reading and social interaction, two fool-proof methods of distraction.

Why Should You Read This Poem?

Rita Dove’s surreal images capture a familiar mood of bewilderment and anticipation, bringing you back to that teenage moment of lingering on the threshold of becoming someone new.

The Poem: Adolescence-II, by Rita Dove


"Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.

I don’t know what to say, again. They chuckle.

Excerpt from Adolescence-II by Rita Dove    



The second poem in a trilogy, Rita Dove’s Adolescence-II narrates a strange late-night encounter between the narrator and three mysterious “seal men” who seem to know something she doesn’t. Dove’s surreal images capture the confusion and anticipation of adolescence, the sense of a change about to happen or perhaps happening already. Anyone who remembers puberty (and even those who think they’ve successfully forgotten it!) can relate to that teenage feeling of being on the threshold of a strange new world, in a strange new body.

Talking Points - Reflection Pool

  1. What does the attitude of the speaker seem like to you in this poem? Excited? Scared? Confused? If more than one, how so??
  2. This poem is full of weird images and descriptions. Which of them particularly stood out to you, and why? You don’t have to have a full-blown explanation of what that image means, but what kind of associations does it bring up for you?
    For example, what might it feel like to have a “ball of fur on my tongue”? Why might the speaker feel this way? 

About the Author

Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has received numerous literary and academic honors.

President Barack Obama presented her with the 2011 National Medal of Arts (White House video-excerpt, White House video-full ceremony, personal slide show), which made her the only poet with both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts to her credit.

To date, 28 honorary doctorates have been bestowed upon Rita Dove, most recently by Yale University in 2014 and by Smith College, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan in 2018. [excerpted from Rita Dove home page]

Poetry Path: Rita Dove reads "Transit"


"The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door into the world."

Rita Dove, U.S. Poet Laureate, 1993-95  


Rita Dove at Rutgers Libraries


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