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by Rita Dove

Parsley Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Do you think that anything in this poem can be mapped on to race relations in the United States? After all, Dove is an American poet, namely, an African-American poet – so is there something here that can tell us anything about how prejudice has played out in this country?
  2. What do you think about the "fictional" aspect of this poem? The second part is almost entirely made up. Though the historical fact of the genocide is accurate, the instance with the parrot and Trujillo's mom comes out of Dove's imagination. What does this do for Trujillo as a character? For evil as a force?
  3. As a theme, "beauty" is hugely significant in this poem – the parrot is beautiful, spring is beautiful, the palace, supposedly, is beautiful. How does this work in a poem that is supposed to be about horrible violence?
  4. What is the effect of all the repetition in this poem? You might consider it on several different levels: How does it work sonically? Thematically? Politically? Why use the villanelle form for a poem like this?
  5. How do you feel about political poetry? Is it the place of poetry to recount politically significant events? How is it different than, say, a news story? What do we get out of a political poem that we don't get out of a newspaper article? And vice versa? What effect does this have on our political knowledge?

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