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Analysis of Poem "Cozy Apologia" by Rita Dove

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

Rita Dove and Cozy Apologia

Cozy Apologia is a poem dedicated to Fred, Rita Dove's husband, and is a sort of reverie, a monologue in which the speaker is focused totally on her partner.

It's a romantic and ironic work inspired by love and put together in the knowledge that a hurricane is about to strike, namely Floyd, which hit the coastline in 1999. Perhaps this fact has given shape to these inner thoughts.

So this is an autobiographical poem no doubt, the speaker dreamily observing things in a room in a house, sometimes digressing, going back in time, reliving memories of former boyfriends, dressing her current love up in the chain mail of a medieval knight.

There are different literary devices on display and an unusual rhyme scheme, the poem starting off with full regular rhyming couplets in the first stanza before these start to crumble a little, reflecting the approach of the imminent storm.

Rita Dove is a well known African American poet but is also a musician and trained singer, as well as novelist. Pulitzer prize winner and academic, she has established her name over several decades, concentrating on history, social issues, the Black struggle and family relationships in her poetry.

Cozy Apologia is a relatively light-hearted affair but has that technical reassurance and measured line which are hallmarks of her work. It was first published in the magazine Poetry in 2003 and later came out in her 2004 book American Smooth.

Cozy Apologia

for Fred

I could pick anything and think of you—
This lamp, the wind-still rain, the glossy blue
My pen exudes, drying matte, upon the page.
I could choose any hero, any cause or age
And, sure as shooting arrows to the heart,
Astride a dappled mare, legs braced as far apart
As standing in silver stirrups will allow—
There you'll be, with furrowed brow
And chain mail glinting, to set me free:
One eye smiling, the other firm upon the enemy.

This post-postmodern age is all business: compact disks
And faxes, a do-it-now-and-take-no-risks
Event. Today a hurricane is nudging up the coast,
Oddly male: Big Bad Floyd, who brings a host
Of daydreams: awkward reminiscences
Of teenage crushes on worthless boys
Whose only talent was to kiss you senseless.
They all had sissy names—Marcel, Percy, Dewey;
Were thin as licorice and as chewy,
Sweet with a dark and hollow center. Floyd's

Cussing up a storm. You're bunkered in your
Aerie, I'm perched in mine
(Twin desks, computers, hardwood floors):
We're content, but fall short of the Divine.
Still, it's embarrassing, this happiness—
Who's satisfied simply with what's good for us,
When has the ordinary ever been news?
And yet, because nothing else will do
To keep me from melancholy (call it blues),
I fill this stolen time with you.

Analysis of Cozy Apologia Stanza by Stanza

Cozy Apologia is a poem written in defence of the poet's relationship with her husband, Fred. Throughout the poem there is a dreamy adoration for the male partner, despite the oncoming hurricane, or because of it's imminent arrival.

Stanza 1

The emphasis is very much on the first person speaker's doting - she is so besotted by this person that anything sparks off Fred-related thoughts. It seems that the whole space, the room, the house and all within these confines is dedicated to ...him, Fred, the husband.

This is a speaker who is being intimate, confiding with the reader. It's a purely autobiographical perspective and there is an unashamedly committed approach to being in a loving partnership.

But note that the speaker is in need of this other. When she mentions the word hero it is only because she feels a need to be set free that this idea arises. So the speaker, the female, is perhaps not feeling all that good about herself. There is an enemy - her own boredom, her own darker thoughts, perhaps even a physical enemy in her life?

This is a somewhat clichéd need - to be rescued by a knight in shining armour, a gallant and bold male who risks all to save the stricken maiden.

But there is also the suggestion that this is a tongue-in-cheek approach; the speaker is being ironic? There is no way that Fred would don medieval costume and ride a horse to come save her. Only in her dreams.

Stanza 2

This heroic scene is left far behind as the speaker abruptly enters the here and now. She may wish for a knight to come trotting up to her but truth is, life in the modern era is fast, technology based. We want everything to be an event.

And more to the point, there's the slight fact of an approaching hurricane, called Floyd, which will add spice to a dull life. Why it hasn't got a female's name is a puzzle. Aren't all hurricanes female by name?

The speaker starts to digress. She thinks back to her younger days and her smoochy boyfriends, as thin as licorice and chewy and in no way comparable to her current male partner.

She even remembers their names, calls them sissy (effeminate or feeble) and worthless because she is now with Fred, who must be the opposite?

This impending storm is causing all sorts of distractions.

Stanza 3

Note the urban dictionary term cussing up which means either to be destroyed or swore at loudly...so it's certain that the hurricane will be offensive in some destructive way.

But the two, the speaker and the heroic knight (Rita Dove and Fred) are fine, out of harm's way. They're both in their own aeries (an aerie or eyrie is an eagles nest), each fitted out with desks and computers.

They're happy enough but they don't treat each other like gods, their relationship isn't heavenly but she especially feels blessed because she's found a stable solid partner and a healthy cooperative partnership, which helps keep the darker side at bay.

The speaker feels the time is stolen - stolen from what, from who, and how? - when she's together with her partner, because maybe she feels she doesn't deserve it, she hasn't worked hard enough for it?

The poem allows the speaker (and Rita Dove) to put her happiness into perspective. She may think of him when she looks at anything, he may be in everything...but nothing else will do.

More Analysis of Cozy Apologia

Cozy Apologia is a 3 stanza poem, totalling 30 lines, split equally between stanzas. It is dedicated to the poet's husband, Fred.

Rhyme

The first stanza is made up of rhyming couplets, all full end-rhymes such as heart/apart and allow/brow which brings familiarity and closure for the reader, each line neatly tied up in a rhyme scheme aabbccddee.

The second stanza starts off in the same way, with rhyming couplets, but changes tack at line 15, the full end-rhymes skipping a beat so to speak, throwing the reader somewhat, as if the storm has struck and life has been disturbed.

Or could it be memory of those thin early boyfriends causing the rhyme disruption? And not all of the rhymes are full. Check out reminiscences/senseless and boys/Floyd's, which are near rhymes. Rhyme scheme aabbcdceed.

The third stanza has alternating lines of rhyme, save for lines 25/26 which is a near rhyme couplet. So the idea if one of haphazard familiarity - the speaker is at home and content enough to be with her partner - they're an almost full rhyming couplet.

Rhyme scheme: ababccdede.

Meter (metre in British English)

  • Whilst there is no set regular metrical system in place, no steady plodding consistent beats, there are lines of iambic pentameter, that is, five feet per line with a da-DUM da-DUM rhythm. For example at the start:

I could / pick an / ything / and think / of you -

This lamp, / the wind- /still rain, / the glos / sy blue

So the first line has a trochee (DUM-da) followed by an iamb, a pyrrhic and two iambs to finish. It has five feet and iambs dominate, so is an iambic pentameter.

The second line is pure iambic pentameter, with five feet all iambic. Despite the commas the beats are quite well pronounced when read.

But this strongly iambic start doesn't continue.

  • The beats vary, ranging from 4 to 6 in certain lines. For example:

There you'll / be, with / furrowed / brow

So line eight has three trochees, the stresses on the first syllable of each foot, with an extra beat at the end. It's technically a trochaic tetrameter.

I fill / this sto / len time / with you.

And the last line is a classic iambic tetrameter, regular beats da-DUM da-DUM.

  • Last but not least come the hexameter lines, lines 10 and 11 for example, longer lines with varied beats:

One eye / smiling, / the oth / er firm / upon / the enemy.

Line 10 with six feet, two trochees at the start, three iambs following and a dactyl to round off.

This post- / postmo / dern age / is all bus / iness, com / pact disks

Line 11 is a clunky kind of mix of iamb, spondee, iamb anapaest and iambs, six varied feet.

Further Analysis

Alliteration

When consonants are close together in a line, bringing added texture and sound effect for the reader, for example:

sure as shooting

standing in silver stirrups

Who's satisfied simply with what's

me...melancholy.

Personification

When human traits are given to natural things:

Big Bad Floyd...Floyd's/Cussing up a storm.

Simile

Were thin as licorice and as chewy

© 2018 Andrew Spacey

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