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:-
- Sonata Mulattica (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009), ISBN 978-0-393-07008-8
- American Smooth (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), ISBN 978-0-393-05987-8
- On the Bus with Rosa Parks (New York: Norton, 1999), ISBN 978-0-393-04722-6
- Mother Love (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), ISBN 978-0-393-31444-1
- Selected Poems (Pantheon/Vintage, 1993), ISBN 978-0-679-75080-2
- Grace Notes (New York: W.W. Norton, 1989), ISBN 978-0-393-02719-8
- Thomas and Beulah (Carnegie Mellon Press, 1986), ISBN 978-0-88748-021-8
- Museum (Carnegie Mellon, 1983)
- The Yellow House on the Corner (Carnegie Mellon Press, 1980)
- 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)
- Through the Ivory Gate (Pantheon Books, 1992), ISBN 978-0-679-41604-3
- Fifth Sunday (University of Kentucky, Callaloo Fiction Series, 1985), ISBN 978-0-912759-06-7