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The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 (Pitt Poetry Series) Paperback – November 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


”Weaver has crafted a virtual planet in this book with plenty of alternate geographies for readers of all flavors and stripes. Marvelous. Huge. Prodigious.”
—North American Review

“Weaver's life studies and lyrics are imbued with a vivid sense of language, a vivid sense of the world, a vivid sense of their inseparability. And his tonal range-from unabashed passion to the subtlest velleity-is impressive indeed. This is a singular talent.”
--Henry Louis Gates Jr. on My Father's Geography

“Weaver is expanding the great tradition in American parlance and song. He strives for the deep resonance of American Grand Opera, in the Whitman tradition. [Among] his sources for inspiration are the Big Bands, his father's and mine. His poems expand the rhythm section, 'straight talk' from ancestry and remembrance. His poems are incremental revelations, his own poetic music. It is a fine rhetorical striving, undiminished.”
--Michael S. Harper on My Father's Geography

About the Author

Afaa Michael Weaver is Alumnae Professor of English at Simmons College in Boston. He is the author of nine previous books of poetry including My Father’s Geography and Timber and Prayer as well as short fiction and plays. He has been named a Pew Fellow in Poetry and was the first African American poet to hold the poet-in-residence position at the Stadler Poetry Center at Bucknell University.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (November 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822959798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822959793
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Alvarez on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
the plum flower dance

review by Rafael Alvarez,

Today, I tell you about a beautiful book of poems: The Plum Flower Dance. And of the man who created it, an American factory worker who embraced the philosophy of the East, was saved by it and became a professor of the great poets who cleared the path before him.

- o -

I can never convince my father
That my best work is done in naps,
In the greenest of grass, near the smell
Of manure, in the song of neighing
And snorting, in the infinite music
That fills the word with bright meaning . . .

- o -

On the far side of the river in my Temple of Books, at the back of a closet deep in the Bleeding Heart of the Holy Land, lies the unpublished memoir of the man who wrote that remarkable stanza: Aafa Michael Weaver.

Titled "Heaven Has No Horses," it sits behind a pair of black Converse high tops worn out at the heel and a pair of cowboy boots from Muleshoe, Texas that always pinched my feet. Weaver's remembrance is guarded by crooked stacks of poetry books: Whitman, to whom Weaver has been compared in earnest; Lorca, Daniel Berrigan and Robert Frost, an overflow waiting for the next shelf.

A poet kid I know in Los Angeles, homeless by the choice in the way Walt Whitman chose to brave the Civil War front to hand out books, found a ragged English text in a coffee house not long ago and raced through it until Frost put the brakes on.

"The beady spider, the flower like a froth . . .
and the moth carried like a paper kite . . ."

Said the kid, hungry but not begging: "The spider is desperate. I relate.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Brown on September 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Declarations: As co-editor of "Off the Coast," I am about to publish a review of new translations of Du Fu and Li Bai that we asked Afaa Michael Weaver to write. He wrote a blurb for my last book of poetry. He didn't ask me for blurbs because his book is graced with quotes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Michael S. Harper, and Edward Hirsch. But I am glad to do this review for Amazon.

In this collection spanning 20 years, Michael Weaver's poetry shows an incisive edge, the sort of sharpness that can slice you when you're not looking or, like a paper cut, get you while you were halfway through a simple, unsuspecting move. This is poetry of subtlety, not a forceful samurai sword that takes your head off before you feel the blade. His writing comes at you directly, with apparent innocence, until you feel the sting and see the blood. People and places are deeply felt and tightly focused. The clues to this depth---underwater, in a cemetery, behind walls---are arranged in elemental sections: Gold, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, which (as the author notes) are the Daoist creative path. Yes, the poetry is that basic, that powerful, the simple work of a Tai Chi master (which he is) or a factory worker (which he was) or a man maintaining strong family, geographic, and loving connections.

And pure. Consider these three lines about a young man and an old woman leaving church:

"Through the benediction and the hush,
we walk together outside, an unusual machine
turning on the pistons of forgiveness and curiosity."

Or this opening line: "The fist is a hand that has made decisions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elsa Foss on September 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Afaa M. Weaver's magnificent collection, The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985-2005,
bears rereading, for it opens to deeper understanding of class as well as race, of the journey to heal as well as the story of harm, in ways both moving and insightful. I read through the book before I read in the notes that the poems are organized according to the "five elements of Chinese philosophy," which, placed in this order--gold, water, wood, fire, and earth--serve to construct the "Creative Path." I read for the logic of the poems together, and the synergy of their placement. Each section opens with a crystalline, koan-like verse (excerpted from Ten Lights of God), and then moves into meditations on relations (of father to son, of poet to self, of self to loss), origins--both personal and cultural--and poetic investigations that are radically, delicately innovative.

"Wood," opens with a meditation on how the speaker's mother's voice "chang[ed] up for white folk," which the speaker neither likes nor understands, significantly, "how Mama taught me translation." I found such scenes of code-switching, often performed in the poem that is contemplating the action, incisive and subtle analysis. From there we move to poems that dwell on the complexities of making a living in the black community that fights poverty and the casual or concerted racism. But there are also, importantly, poems of great celebration--of jazz, of Civil Rights, of cultural heritage and plain speech. Yet there's nothing plain-spoken about Weaver's poetics or portraits. Weaver soars easily through riffs of allusions ("in the shadows of the lilacs in the last door") and alights in the garden of black heritage.
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