The Poet's Perspective: 'OK, Tucker' contends with a favored pet

October 25, 2010

Robin Becker, the 2010-11 Penn State laureate and professor of English and women's studies at the University, is sharing several of her poems via video during the 2010-11 academic year, aiming to engage people "in the deep pleasures of poetry -- language crafted and shaped from words, the 'ordinary' material we all use every day," to explore how and why poems move us.

"The Poet's Perspective" is a weekly poetry video series scheduled to appear during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters on Penn State Live and in Penn State Newswires. Prior to each poem, Becker offers her thoughts about what inspired her to write the piece, then poses a question to consider. Below and in the video link of "OK, Tucker," Becker offers a humorous take on relationships, where the speaker tries to gain the approval of a romantic partner's dog.

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In this poem I take a playful approach to a familiar relationship triangle: getting involved with someone who already has a dog. The speaker here charts the difficulties she encounters and the strategies she employs to gain the dog's affection. The dog, competitive and savvy, resists this new courtship and never gets seduced.

Question to Consider: How might you use humor and exaggeration to characterize your relationship with a domestic animal?

OK, Tucker

You win. My arm got tired of throwing the ball
before you got tired of scrambling up the river-
bank to fetch it. Ok, Tucker, you can come, too.
Since you open the door with your clever snout
I’m not about to shove you back in. You win
the beauty contest, the most finicky eater award,
and the like-a-dog-with-a-bone prize; you win
the first-one-in-the-car sweepstakes. Look,
Tucker, we had no choice when we squared off
in your adolescence, we had to get along, it was a live-
and-let-live situation, both of us in love with her.
Ok, I bribed you with biscuits and rides;
you conned me with a handshake and a smile.
Remember hide-and-seek in the cornfield,
the jack-in-the pulpit, the lady slipper?
That week at the beach with smelly gulls
wrapped in slime and tangled lines of seaweed?
And a pen of chickens? You had it made, but no!
Old girl, you chased the phantom squirrel
up the slope again and again, returned
slack-jawed, refused to come off the porch,
stood your ground in freezing November rain,
showed your dog’s teeth when I showed my human
fear and for good measure ran circles around me -­-
when I was her woman, but you were her dog.

"OK, Tucker" is from Domain of Perfect Affection, by Robin Becker, © 2006. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the publisher.

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Robin Becker will visit several Penn State Commonwealth Campuses this fall; view her schedule of appearances at online. To read or watch videos of previous poems in the series, click here. To listen to an occasional podcast series where Becker and a small group of students and faculty discuss one of her poems, visit "Liberal Arts Voices."

  • To watch a reading of 'OK, Tucker,' click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010