Rita Dove’s new book of poems is among her best. The title makes it leap from the bookcase ... Dove’s books derive their force from how she so deftly stirs the everyday — insomnia, TV movies, Stilton cheese, rattling containers of pills — into her world of ideas and intellection, in poems that are by turns delicate, witty and audacious. Her sleepless eye for cant, necessary in all good poetry, is a bonus ... These are fighting poems ... You sense the books of many poets of Dove’s generation slipping to the back of the bookcase. Not hers.
... exquisite ... Her poems magnify the marginalized individual, simultaneously illuminating national and global failed attempts at democracy. As always, her words are raw, poignant, and accessible ... The poems she uses to divulge her daily life, managing her condition, are tender, playful, and optimistically realistic ... Once again, Dove has written a culturally astute volume packed with musicality and charm. Her eloquent honesty creates a true playlist for the apocalypse, should that relentless threat ever finally tighten its grip. Still, she respectfully declines to be dismal.
It is as if the poet of her first three books...found herself expected to show a more public profile, to take on more explicitly public concerns. She has always met these challenges with grace but not always with originality. Playlist for the Apocalypse is no different in this respect ... Dove cuts a wide swath from Keats to Neruda, and while the enemy is identified as the 'belligerent purveyors of programmed rectitude,' there is a satisfying rebellion against what might be expected in a poem. I can hear the public poet throwing off her onerous duties ... It is the final section that, for me, includes the most moving poems; even without being told we would know that these were responses to impending mortality.