Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, THE CITY OF THE OLESHA FRUIT, by NORMAN DUBIE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

THE CITY OF THE OLESHA FRUIT, by                 Poet's Biography

"The City of the Olesha Fruit" is a poem by Norman Dubie, first published in 1981. 


The poem tells the story of a city where a rare and delicious fruit called the Olesha grows. The city is divided into two parts - one half is inhabited by the wealthy, who live in grand houses and eat the fruit regularly, and the other half is inhabited by the poor, who cannot afford the expensive fruit and suffer from hunger as a result.

The poem begins with a description of the Olesha fruit and how it is harvested by the wealthy citizens of the city. The speaker of the poem then introduces the reader to the poor section of the city, where children play in the dirt and women beg for scraps of food. The contrast between the two halves of the city is stark, and the poverty and suffering of the poor is highlighted in vivid detail.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reveals that the Olesha fruit is not only rare and delicious, but also has a hallucinogenic effect on those who eat it. The wealthy citizens of the city are depicted as being obsessed with the fruit and addicted to its effects. The speaker suggests that the fruit is not only a symbol of wealth and excess, but also of moral corruption and spiritual decay.

The poem concludes with a sense of hopelessness and despair, as the poor continue to suffer and the wealthy continue to indulge in their decadent lifestyle. The final lines suggest that the cycle of poverty and inequality will continue unabated, with the Olesha fruit serving as a potent symbol of the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: Free verse
  • Imagery: vivid descriptions of the Olesha fruit, the city, and the poverty-stricken inhabitants
  • Tone: despairing, critical
  • Theme: social inequality, wealth and corruption, addiction and moral decay



The City of the Olesha Fruit" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores themes of wealth, poverty, addiction, and corruption. Through its vivid imagery and stark contrast between the two halves of the city, the poem highlights the injustice and suffering that result from social inequality. It is a thought-provoking and imaginative poem that explores the human condition through the metaphor of a strange fruit. Dubie's use of vivid imagery and metaphor creates a world that is both unsettling and familiar.

Poem Snippet:

"And the wealthy eat their fruit, which is rare

and lush, hallucinogenic as sex, they say,

until their eyes water and their ears ring

and their souls rise out of their bodies like smoke."

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