“The Toni Morrison Dreams” is a four-part poem sequence, which includes at least two explicitly different settings (a classroom workshop and an auditorium) and describes scenarios that are reminiscent of experiences one might have while attending a university-sponsored literary conference. The trick to appreciating the poem sequence lies in seeing how its details reveal much larger subjects, in this case pertaining to professional hierarchy and competition in the arts.
In section one, the scene takes place before the literary program is to begin. The speaker realizes that the presenter, the African American novelist Toni Morrison, “despises / conference coffee.” So the speaker offers to “fetch” Morrison a coffee from Starbucks. The verb, fetch, reveals that the speaker assumes a much lower status than Morrison has. The speaker is happy to serve as an errand runner for the important author, eager to leave the meeting in order to get a coffee to please Morrison. Thus the speaker seeks to be singled out from the audience as the one who performs this service for Morrison. Getting “better” coffee for the presenter also suggests Morrison’s elitist attitude; she “despises” the coffee everyone else in the room is probably drinking.
In the second stanza, the speaker notes that Morrison is “delighted” and says this coffee allows her to “start her day properly.” Like a patted puppy that has...
(The entire section is 1753 words.)
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