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.