Friday, 4 January 2013


Rita Dove was born in the year 1952 in the city of Akron, Ohio. Her father was a research chemist at the Goodyear plant in Akron and her mother, a homemaker. As a child, the young Dove had a particular fondness and passion for books and said that her parents encouraged her to read anything that she pleased; her parents valued and understood the importance of an education. Dove went on to graduate summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio, and then to study German at the UniversitÉt TÄbingen, where she would become a Fulbright Scholar. She also received her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa. It was there where she met her husband to be, German novelist and playwright Fred Viebahn. Together, the two currently reside in Charlottesville, Virginia with their daughter Aviva. She is presently a Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia where she teaches creative writing. 

Dove has been the recipient of many prestigous awards and has held various seats and positions. She was the seventh Poet Laureate/Consultant in Poetry of the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. She was the youngest person ever appointed to that position as well as the first African American ever appointed. She has also been honored with fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1978 and 1989 and from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1983-84. Dove has been given honorary doctorates from several different universities and colleges. She has held residencies at Tuskegee Institute, the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation's Villa Serbelloni in Italy. She was named Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine and given the NAACP Great American Artist Award, both in 1993. She won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book of poems, Thomas and Beulah. She has been given the Folger Shakespere Library's Renaissance Forum Award, the General Electric Foundation award, as well as many other honors. In 1995 she along with Jimmy Carter, welcomed a gathering of Nobel Laureates in Literature to the city of Atlanta, Georgia; hosted by the Cultural Olympiad of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Dove was also responsible for writing the text for Alvin Singleton's symphony "Umoja - Each One of Us Counts," which was comissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to be performed during the opening festivities of last summer's Olympic Games held in Atlanta.
Rita Dove's first work, The Yellow House on the Corner was published in 1980. It is a collection of poems dealing with various topics and experiences such as adolescence, romantic encounters, and glimpses into slave history. It was received well by most critics and caught the attention of her peers. Thomas and Beulah, another collection of poems is probably her most famous piece of literature. One critic wrote "[S]he speaks with a directness and a dramatic intensity that commands attention... [Rita Dove] fashions imaginative constructs that strike the reader as much by their 'rightness' as their originality." Using her poetry, she recounts the lives of her two grandparents, telling both sides of their story: Thomas first, and then Beulah, which in a sense gives her the last word. Dove explains their viewpoints regarding each other and life with a simple, yet elegant and realistic prose. Dove has penned many collections of poems, however Through the Ivory Gate was her initial attempt at writing a novel. Encouraged by her husband and publishers, she wrote this story about a young African American woman and her experiences as she returns to her hometown (which, coincidentally is Akron) to perform and teach children at a local school about puppets and creative arts. Like the story's young protagonist, Dove herself is also very involved with younger children. She has appeared on such shows such as "Sesame Street" and NBC's "The Today Show" attempting to draw people who have little prior interest to poetry. Her self declared intention is "to bring poetry into everyday discourse ... to make it much more of a household word."
Her famous works:-

  • The Poet's World (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress, 1995)
  • The Darker Face of the Earth: A Verse Play in Fourteen Scenes (Story Line Press, 1994)

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Possibly Poet

Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989. She received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry and was named Poet Laureate of the United State by the Librarian of Congress, an office she held from 1993 to 1995. At age 40, Dove was the youngest person to hold the position and is the first African American to hold the position since the title was changed to Poet Laureate (Robert Hayden had served as the first non-white Consultant in Poetry from 1976–78, and Gwendolyn Brooks had been the last Consultant in Poetry in 1985–86). Early in her tenure as poet laureate, Bill Moyers featured Rita Dove in a one hour interview on his PBS prime time program Bill Moyers Journal. Since 1989 she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English.
Rita Dove also served as a Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1999/2000, along with Louise Glück and W. S. Merwin. In 2004 then-governor Mark Warner of Virginia appointed her to a two-year position as Poet Laureate of Virginia. In her public posts, Dove concentrated on spreading the word about poetry and increasing public awareness of the benefits of literature. As United States Poet Laureate, for example, she also brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists.
Dove’s work cannot be confined to a specific era or school in contemporary literature; her wide-ranging topics and the precise poetic language with which she captures complex emotions defy easy categorization.

 Besides her Pulitzer Prize, she has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them 22 honorary doctorates, the 1996 National Humanities Medal / Charles Frankel Prize from President Bill Clinton, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 1997,and most recently, the 2006 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service in Literature, the 2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University,the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2009 Premio Capri and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. From 1994–2000 she was a senator (member of the governing board) of the national academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and from 2006 to 2012 she served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has been a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival on many occasions, most recently in 2010.

Dove edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, published in 2011. It provoked heated controversy as she was accused of valuing an inclusive, populist agenda over quality. Poet John Olson commented that "her exclusions are breathtaking". Well-known poets left out include Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Sterling Brown, Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff and Lorine Niedecker. Critic Helen Vendler condemned Dove's choices, asking "why are we being asked to sample so many poets of little or no lasting value?" Dove defended her choices and omissions vigorously in her response to Vendler in The New York Review of Books, as well as in wide-ranging interviews with The Writer's Chronicle,with poet Jericho Brown on the Best American Poetry website and with Bill Moyers on his public television show Moyers & Company.

Monday, 31 December 2012


Just when hope withers, the visa is granted.
The door opens to a street like in the movies,
clean of people, of cats; except it is your street
you are leaving. A visa has been granted,
“provisionally”-a fretful word.
The windows you have closed behind
you are turning pink, doing what they do
every dawn. Here it’s gray. The door
to the taxicab waits. This suitcase,
the saddest object in the world.
Well, the world’s open. And now through
the windshield the sky begins to blush
as you did when your mother told you
what it took to be a woman in this life.

The speaker in the sonnet titled, “Exit,” is a young woman, but this speaker, instead of narrating in the first person, addresses herself using the poetic self. She reveals that she has applied for a “visa,” which indicates that must be traveling abroad. And “just when hope withers, the visa is granted,” she begins.
She feels that suddenly “the door opens to a street like in the movies.” The street while “clean of people, of cats” is her street. She is a bit anxious, however, because of her impending journey. She repeats, “A visa has been granted,” and adds that it has been granted “provisionally,” calling it a “fretful word.”
The speaker then recounts that she has shut windows that “behind you / are turning pink.” But then reports that they always do that “every dawn.” Her mood is painting everything “gray,” while the cab to take her to the airport is waiting. She observes that a suitcase is the “saddest object in the world.”
But once she is on her way, she realizes “the world’s open.” She then observes that the sky is turning pink with the rising of the sun, but she dramatizes that sunrise in a very telling way: “the sky begins to blush / as you did when your mother told you / what it took to be a woman in this life.” At the beginning of her journey, she realizes how inexperienced she is in the ways of the world, but she seems to hold a ray of hope in her heart that things will turn out well.
I believe that this poem is about leaving a life behind and starting a new one. The doors closing behind you and the empty streets of grey symbolize how you alone are embarking on a new journey with your passport, the key to a new future. While you are starting a new life with your suitcases, you are gloomy put then the skys turn blue again and you realize that your new life will be better even though you are leaving your comfort zone behind. Exit is a free verse poem that has imagery, and possibly personification when it reads that “the door to the taxi cab waits”.

Friday, 28 December 2012


She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.
Sometimes there were things to watch –
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her own vivid blood.
She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,
building a palace. Later
that night, when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour — where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.

Every story or poem gives off a certain tone for the readers to catch. In this particular poem Daystar by Rita Dove, she uses her great way of words to present a sorrow, yet sympathetic feeling towards the main character. Some authors use the setting to work this idea but Dove uses her words and the feelings connected to those words to perfect her plan. For example ‘so she lugged a chair behind the garage’ (line 4). Here she uses words like lugged, which we as readers see as a negative yet gloomy action. We as readers get the feeling of the depressed, tired feeling given off by the mother. The mother obviously has had a long, hard day watching the kids, and probably has been cleaning as well. Another example of Dove’s word usage is when she describes the mother’s dream. ‘She had an hour, at best, before Lisa appeared pouting from the top of the stairs’ (lines 1-1). This gives us the one time excitement shared with the mom that she, during her busy day, could have a relaxing and happy moment. But at the same time Dove takes this dream away pretty quick in order to give the readers a sense of reality. We as readers see that in reality the mother cannot enjoy this fantasy for long, for her daily chores call to her. The reader gathers this information, not only by the choice of words from the Author, but also by the phrases put together by the words. These makes up the diction, which in its own way helps the author, give off their plan of how to make the readers sympathize with the main character.

The Diction of a poem is the way the author puts the words together to form a phrase, which not only provides evidence to the characters emotions but to the readers as well. The tone only can go so far. The diction of the poem helps maintain the idea of the theme. A good example of this would be where the mother chooses to set up her safe haven. ’She wanted a little room for thinking’ (line1). Here she ponders a way to find a quite place to rest while her chores do the same. Another example is how she sets up her palace. ’She lugged a chair behind the garage’ (line 4). Here we get the feeling of her tired, lazy body sluggishly preparing her palace for the quick 10 minutes. Then the last example would be her ideas that help her escape her world as it is now and start up in a new one. ’Sometimes there were things to watch- the pinched armor of a vanished cricket, a floating maple leaf. Other days she stared until she was assured when she closed her eyes she’d see only her own vivid blood’ (lines 6-11). Here she uses a vivid use of words that provide the readers with the idea of how desperately she urged for this time away from her daily life.

Rita Dove takes her idea of using a reality situation and expands greatly. By using her choice of words she alone creates a tone and establishes diction to back her idea up. Dove now has a poem where when a reader reads it, they catch the main character’s emotions. In the “Daystar” Dove gave us all as readers the sense of weakened endurance a house mother gets while living with everyday life and along with the chores that reality provides.

On the basis of this analysis it is clear to me that Rita Dove is trying to say that mothers are unappreciated and overworked. In this characters own way she is a star. The character in this poem constantly gives to everyone around her, taking little time for herself. Much like all mothers around the world are.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Adolescence 1


In water-heavy nights behind grandmother's porch
We knelt in the tickling grasses and whispered:
Linda's face hung before us, pale as a pecan,
And it grew wise as she said:
        "A boy's lips are soft,
        As soft as baby's skin."
The air closed over her words.
A firefly whirred near my ear, and in the distance
I could hear streetlamps ping
Into miniature suns
Against a feathery sky.

In this poem, Rita Dove depicts a scene of a group young girls inquiring about a boy’s lips. Kneeling in their grandmother’s backyard, one of the girls named Linda shares with the others that she indeed felt a boy’s lips and they are “as soft as a baby’s skin”. Listening intently to her words, the other girls learn from Linda’s experience. The audience can feel how fascinated the other girls are in what Linda shares by Rita Dove’s explanation of the scene. The narrator claims, “A firefly whirred near my ear, and in the distance I could hear streetlamps ping into miniature suns against a feathery sky”. Just by comprehending these lines, the reader knows how intrigued the girls are to listen to Linda’s words.

This poem describes the innocent behavior of young girls toward young boys. The girls only talk about how soft a boy’s lips are, and the conversation does not go any further than that. We know most of the girls are inexperienced because they listen so closely to Linda’s description. Rita Dove successfully portrays the pure curiosity of young girls by simply illustrating the tame nature of the girls’ attitude toward boys. Their inquiry does not go past the physical nature of a boy’s lips. There is no desire or physical need beyond a harmless kiss.