(Poetry for Students)

Celebrity Status of Famous Authors

Toni Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her 1987 novel Beloved and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Beloved was made into a film, and Oprah Winfrey, in selecting her as her favorite author, brought additional attention to Morrison. Elizabeth Alexander uses Morrison in this poem sequence because Morrison is so well-known. This kind of celebrity wields much influence in the academic setting and with aspiring writers. The poem explores how effective such a writer may be in working with and encouraging others. It also asks if in the presence of a person of such stature a beginning writer can maintain her own voice and withstand the blow of possible criticism. The easy assumption might be that in the presence of greatness, one can learn the essential tricks to the trade of becoming great. On the other hand, the case may be that the beginner’s hopes can all too easily be quashed.

A dream book is a record of the writer’s dreams, nighttime dreams, daydreams, and dreamed of goals. “The Toni Morrison Dreams” suggests all kinds of dreams. The speaker dreams about attending a lecture by Morrison and having Morrison hear her own writing and see her baby. The poet Elizabeth Alexander also may dream about being a celebrated writer like Morrison, achieving that kind of status and having that kind of impact on others. Using the dream framework, Alexander can explore the...

(The entire section is 479 words.)