In my poems, and in my stories, too, I try very hard to create characters who are seen as individuals—not only as Blacks or women, or whatever, but as a Black woman with her own particular problems, or one White bum struggling in a particular predicament—as persons who have their very individual lives, and whose histories make them react to the world in their individual ways.
Born 1952 in Akron, Ohio, Rita Dove served as the Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry at the United States Congress. She was the youngest person and the first African American to be appointed to this prestigious office. After stellar academic performances, she embarked on her literary career, which can be truly described as illustrious. She has been widely acclaimed, won top honors and major prizes in her field, and produced an impressive body of work that includes poetry, novels, short stories and musical text.
Her academic achievements are exemplary. She was a Presidential Scholar, one of the top 100 high school students in the nation, which earned her an invitation to the White House. At the University of Miami (Oxford, Ohio), she graduated summa cum laude with a degree of English. Then, as a Fulbright scholar, she spent two semesters at Universität Tübingen in Germany. Subsequently, she gained her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa.
Ms. Dove's honors include Fulbright, Guggenheim and Mellon fellowships and writer-in-residence at Tuskegee Institute and the National Humanities Center. She has been a member, as well as chairperson of numerous editorial and advisory boards; and has been awarded 20 honorary doctorates.
Ms. Dove has published six volumes of poetry, which include Thomas and Beulah, drawn from the experiences of her grandparents who migrated from the South during the Great Migration of the early twentieth century. Thomas and Beulah earned her the Pulitzer Prize and, in so doing, she became the second African American poet (after Gwendolyn Brooks) to win the coveted prize. Other publications include a book of short stories, a novel, Through the Ivory Gate, and the acclaimed verse drama, The Darker Face of Earth.
In addition, she has provided the text for musical works. Her song cycle, Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, premiered at Tanglewood; she collaborated with John Williams again on Steven Spielberg's Unfinished Journey; and she wrote the text for musical compositions by Tania Leon, Bruce Adolphe, and Alvin Singleton's Umoja—Each One of Us Counts, a symphonic work performed during the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Ms. Dove holds the chair as Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
Rita Dove's Primary Works
Fifth Sunday: Stories. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1985.
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Grace Notes: Poems. Norton, 1989.
Selected poems. Vintage Books, 1993.
Thomas and Beulah: Poems. Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986.
Through the Ivory Gate: a Novel. Vintage Books, 1993.
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The Yellow House on the Corner: Poems. Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980.
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