The Whole Sky Is Yours.

By: Jen Shoop
"Imagine you wake up / with a second chance." -Rita Dove

There was a big to-do about poet Rita Dove while I attended the University of Virginia from 2002-2006. She was a tenured professor there, but she had just been named Poet Laureate of Virginia (after being named Poet Laureate of the U.S. about a decade prior), and I remember there being a kind of hallowed hush about her in the corridors of Bryant Hall, home of the English Department, which aptly overlooks the amphitheatre just off The Lawn. I say “aptly” because Bryant Hall, in other words, countenances — hosts, courts! — performance, which is more or less what I learned to do while studying literature there. Pursuing English at the University of Virginia pronated me toward experiencing art in new, more open ways.

Anyhow, I guess I was not yet fully pronated, as one of my big academic regrets — aside from shying away from collegiate-level coursework in mathematics — is not finding a way to take or at least audit one of Professor Dove’s courses. College is such a ridiculous glut of intellectual richness. Had I been more disciplined, or more aware of how quickly the experience would end, I could have simply walked into one of her lectures and taken the course “for free.” Just listened. Just sat in the presence of one of the great poets of our generation.

I am pleased, however, that I had the foresight to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney held in a small white church off Rugby Road in 2005. The evening is forever imprinted on my memory. It was standing room only, and you could have heard a pin drop, so entranced were we by the incantatory rhythm of his voice, the way it turned sing-song, then muckish. I still consider that path-crossing one of the greatest experiences of my intellectual life. I was electrified; I still am.

I am electrified, in a different way, by this poem by Rita Dove, which is as good a reminder as any that “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Each day is a second chance, an empty page; get up and go. Or, as we fashion it here: “Onward, Magpies–!” I can almost smell those prodigal biscuits…!


By Rita Dove

Imagine you wake up

with a second chance: The blue jay

hawks his pretty wares

and the oak still stands, spreading

glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

the future never happens.

How good to rise in sunlight,

in the prodigal smell of biscuits –

eggs and sausage on the grill.

The whole sky is yours

to write on, blown open

to a blank page. Come on,

shake a leg! You’ll never know

who’s down there, frying those eggs,

if you don’t get up and see.


+You can hear Professor Dove read the poem herself here. 90% of the time, I enjoy listening to the poets read their own work, and find the audio experience additive. There is a small sliver that ruin the experience for me — ha!

+Every morning, a million miracles are born.

+Imprints of a new lifestyle.


Shopping Break.

+This adorable reversible puffer coat is on sale for under $120.

+For your dino-loving toddler.

+A chic cropped puffer to throw on over athletic garb.

+A great pair of dressy pants — under $125.

+Ordering one of these pima “sweatshirts.” Have you worn any of Alice Walk’s tees? They are made of this divinely soft and stretchy pima cotton and I imagine the sweatshirt is like that, but a tad heavier weight. Love the length for throwing on over leggings. I got it in the ice blue but also love the two gray shades!

+Shh: these are still my favorite everyday bra. I love the racerback so I’m never pushing straps up my arm (this happens in button-downs especially!)/fidgeting, and the seamless stretchy material is SO comfortable. I won’t wear these underneath anything super-fitted because I prefer more…shape — for more fitted tops, I still wear the Natori Feathers, which I find the most comfortable of the underwire type.

+Fellow anticipators, unite — now is a good time to buy one of these classic Easter baskets (have it monogrammed!) such that it arrives in plenty of time.

+This coatigan is perfect for an expecting-to-postpartum mama. Love anything that cinches above the bump and then you can layer over nursing tanks and leggings after baby comes but still look pulled together.

+These Tevas-inspired sandals for littles are adorable.

+Cute winter boots at a fab pricepoint.

+OK, these high-waisted sleep pants look like heaven.

+The kind of graphic tees I can get behind for my son.

+Why not have fun with your sunglasses? Such a funky color!

+Wish I had a baby girl to buy this bubble for!

+Wow (!!) — drooling over this chocolate brown linen dress.

+These scalloped tennis shorts are so cute!

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4 thoughts on “The Whole Sky Is Yours.

  1. Curious to know what the “small sliver” was for you. Was it that the audio sounded like it was playing from an actual record album? Was it that you could not see her as she recited her poem?

    That poem is beautiful and very timely this morning. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Allison! That was confusingly worded – I meant to say that 90% of the time, I like hearing poets read their work, 10% of the time, the experience ruins the poem for me, but Rita Dove’s was in the 90%. It was additive, helpful, illustrative! There have been other readings I’ve attended where the speaker completely changes the way I’d interpreted the poem, and makes me think less of (?) the work?

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem!


      1. Whoops…I misread it. Thank you for clarifying it for me. I know what you mean. Personally, I find it more impactful when we can see the poet reciting their work. I love the performative aspect of the visual along with hearing their voice.

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