|Born||Rita Frances Dove|
August 28, 1952
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
|Alma mater||Miami University|
University of Tübingen
University of Iowa
|Notable works||Thomas and Beulah|
The Darker Face of the Earth
Playlist for the Apocalypse
|Notable awards||Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1987)|
United States Poet Laureate (1993–95)
Poet Laureate of Virginia (2004–06)
1996 National Humanities Medal
2011 National Medal of Arts
2019 Wallace Stevens Award
2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal
Rita Frances Dove (born August 28, 1952) is an American poet and essayist. From 1993 to 1995, she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She is the first African American to have been appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986 from the previous "consultant in poetry" position (1937–86). Dove also received an appointment as "special consultant in poetry" for the Library of Congress's bicentennial year from 1999 to 2000. Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. Since 1989, she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she held the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English from 1993 to 2020; as of 2020 she holds the chair of Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing.
Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, to Ray Dove, one of the first African-American chemists to work in the U.S. tire industry (as research chemist at Goodyear), and Elvira Hord, who achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter. In 1970, Dove graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar. Later, Dove graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Miami University in 1973. In 1974, she held a Fulbright Scholarship from University of Tübingen, Germany. Some of her poems, translated by Paol Keineg, were published in French in the Breton magazine Bretagnes in 1976. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977.
|C-SPAN Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, 15:43, C-SPAN|
Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989. She received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 1992, she was named United States Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress, an office she held from 1993 to 1995. At the age of 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 to 1978, and Gwendolyn Brooks had been the last Consultant in Poetry in 1985–86). Early in her tenure as poet laureate, Dove was featured by Bill Moyers 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 brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists.
Dove was on the board of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) (now "Association of Writers and Writing Programs") from 1985 to 1988. She led the organization as its president from 1986 to 1987. From 1994 to 2000, she was a senator (member of the governing board) of the national academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. From 2006 to 2012, she served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Since 1991, she has been on the jury of the annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards—from 1991 to 1996 serving together with Ashley Montagu and Henry Louis Gates; and since 1997 with Gates, Joyce Carol Oates, Simon Schama, Stephen Jay Gould (until his death in 2002) and Steven Pinker (who replaced Gould in 2002).
In the spring of 2018, Dove was named poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine. She resigned from the position in August 2019.
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. Her most famous work to date is Thomas and Beulah, published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1986, a collection of poems loosely based on the lives of her maternal grandparents, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. Dove has published ten volumes of poetry, a book of short stories (Fifth Sunday, 1985), a collection of essays (The Poet's World, 1995), and a novel, Through the Ivory Gate (1992). Her Collected Poems 1974–2004 was released by W. W. Norton in 2016; it carries an excerpt from President Barack Obama's 2011 National Medal of Arts commendation on its back cover.
In 1994, she published the play The Darker Face of the Earth (revised stage version 1996), which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon in 1996 (first European production: Royal National Theatre, London, 1999). She collaborated with composer John Williams on the song cycle Seven for Luck (first performance: Boston Symphony, Tanglewood, 1998, conducted by the composer). For "America's Millennium", the White House's 1999/2000 New Year's celebration, Ms. Dove contributed — in a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by John Williams' music — a poem to Steven Spielberg's documentary The Unfinished Journey.
Dove's most ambitious collection of poetry to date, Sonata Mulattica, was published in 2009; it received the 2010 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Over its more than 200 pages, it "has the sweep and vivid characters of a novel", as Mark Doty wrote in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Dove's 11th collection of poetry, Playlist for the Apocalypse, was published by W. W. Norton in August 2021. New York Times critic Dwight Garner called it "among her best", "poems that are by turns delicate, witty and audacious."
Dove edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry, published in 2011. The collection provoked heated controversy as some critics complained that she valued 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.
As Dove explained in her foreword and in media interviews, she had originally selected works by Plath, Ginsberg and Brown but these as well as some other poets were left out against her editorial wishes; their contributions had to be removed from print-ready copy at the very last minute because their publisher forbade their inclusion due to a disagreement with Penguin over permission fees. 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. The Boston Review continued the discussion from different angles with an aggressive attack by scholar Marjorie Perloff and a spirited counter-attack by poet and scholar Evie Shockley, who took on both Vendler and Perloff.
In 2019, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman's birth, Dove put the African-American poetic reception of Whitman into perspective at a poetry festival in Bogotá, Colombia, during a round-table session with Robert Pinsky.
Besides her Pulitzer Prize, Rita Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them 28 honorary doctorates - most recently, in 2018, from Harvard University, Smith College and The University of Michigan, as well as, in 2014, from Yale University and, in 2013, from Emerson College and Emory University). In 2016, she was the commencement speaker at The University of Virginia, which traditionally does not bestow honorary degrees. Among the other institutions of higher learning that granted her honorary doctorates are Miami University of Ohio, Knox College, Tuskegee University, The University of Miami (Florida), Washington University, Case Western Reserve University, The University of Akron, Arizona State University, Boston College, Dartmouth College, Spelman College, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of Notre Dame, Northeastern University, Columbia University, SUNY Brockport, Washington & Lee University, Howard University, the Pratt Institute, Skidmore College and Duke University.
Rita Dove received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1994, the National Humanities Medal / Charles Frankel Prize from President Bill Clinton in 1996, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 1997, and more 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. In 2014, she was honored with the Carole Weinstein Prize in poetry and in 2015, as the first American, with the Poetry and People Prize in Guangdong, China. In 2016, she received the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University. Collected Poems 1974–2004, released in 2016, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the winner of the NAACP Image Award in poetry and winner of the 2017 Library of Virginia Poetry Award. Also in 2017 she received the Callaloo Lifetime Achievement Award, followed in 2018 by The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement and in 2019 by the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the North Star Award (the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for lifetime achievement)[circular reference], the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University and the Langston Hughes Medal from City College of New York.
In 2021 Rita Dove received the Gold Medal in poetry  from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy's highest honor, as the 16th poet (and only the 3rd female and 1st African-American) in the medals' 110 year history. The other fifteen poets who have received the medal since 1911 were James Whitcomb Riley, Edward Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, Conrad Aiken, William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, John Crowe Ransom, Archibald MacLeish, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, John Ashbery, W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand and Louise Glück.
Dove has been a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival on many occasions, most recently in 2014. The annual "Rita Dove Poetry Award" was established by Salem College Center for Women Writers in 2004. The documentary film Rita Dove: An American Poet by Eduardo Montes-Bradley premiered at the Paramount Theater on January 31, 2014.
Rita Dove is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fellowship of Southern Writers and PEN American Center.She was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in 1991, and in 2018 she was named one of the Library of Virginia's Virginia Women in History.
Dove married Fred Viebahn, a German-born writer, in 1979; they first met in the summer of 1976 when she was a graduate student in the Iowa Writers Workshop and he spent a semester as a Fulbright fellow in the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. They lived in Oberlin, Ohio from 1977 to 1979 while Viebahn taught in the Oberlin College German department, and spent extended periods of time in Germany, Ireland and Israel, before moving to Arizona in 1981. Their daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn, was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1983. The couple are avid ballroom dancers, and have participated in a number of showcase performances. Dove and her husband live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Short story collections
Chapters in books (selection)
Rita Dove, former United States Poet Laureate, presenting the Golden Plate Award to Nadia Murad, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, during the Banquet of the Golden Plate Award gala at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.