Rita dove in 2004

Rita Dove in 2004. Photo by Fred Viebahn. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Rita Dove
Born Rita Frances Dove
28 1952 (1952-08-28) (age 64)
Akron, Ohio, USA
Occupation Poet, author
Nationality United States American
Alma mater Miami University
Universität Tübingen
University of Iowa
Notable work(s) Thomas and Beulah
The Darker Face of the Earth
Sonata Mulattica
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1987
U.S. Poet Laureate, 1993-1995
Spouse(s) Fred Viebahn (1979-present)

Rita Frances Dove (born August 28, 1952) is an African-American poet and academic. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1993, the second African American to be so appointed, and received a second special appointment in 1999.[1] Dove was the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.



Dove was born in Akron, Ohio to Ray Dove, the first African-American chemist to work in the U.S. tire industry (as research chemist at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company), and Elvira Hord, who achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter.[2] In 1970 Dove graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar, making her one of the 100 top American high school graduates that year. Later, Dove graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Miami University in 1973, and received an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977. In 1974 she attended Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship.



Dove in 2012. Photo by Slowking4. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989. Since 1989 she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English.

Dove served as Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry at 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 the Commonwealth of Virginia .[3] In her public posts, Dove concentrated on spreading the word about poetry and increasing public awareness of the benefits of literature. As Poet Laureate of Virginia, she also brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists.

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. She has published nine 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).

In 1994 she published a 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's music — a poem to Steven Spielberg's documentary The Unfinished Journey. Dove's latest collection of poetry, Sonata Mulattica, was published in April 2009.

Personal lifeEdit

Dove married Fred Viebahn, a German-born writer in 1979. Their daughter Aviva was born in 1983. The couple are avid ballroom dancers, and have participated in a number of competitions. Dove and her husband live in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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.


Dove received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

In 1993, at age 40, she was named Poet Laureate of the United States, [3] by the Librarian of Congress, an office she held from 1993 to 1995 as the youngest person, and as the first and to date only African American. (Gwendolyn Brooks had been the last Consultant in Poetry in 1985-86, prior to U.S. Congress' action renaming the position Poet Laureate.)

Besides her Pulitzer Prize, Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them 22 honorary doctorates, the 1996 National Humanities Medal / Charles Frankel Prize, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 1997,[4] and most recently, the 2006 Commonwealth Award of Distinguished Service in Literature, the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and the 2009 Premio Capri (Italy). From 1994-2000 she was a senator (member of the governing board) of the national academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and she is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She has been a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival on many occasions, most recently in 2010.

She served as Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2004 - 2006.[5]

Publications Edit

Poetry Edit

  • Ten Poems (chapbook). Lisbon, IA: Penumbra Press, 1977.
  • The Only Dark Spot in the Sky (chapbook). Phoenix, AZ: Porch Publications.
  • The Yellow House on the Corner. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1980.
  • Mandolin (chapbook). Athens, OH: Ohio Review, 1982.
  • Museum. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1983.
  • Thomas and Beulah. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-88748021-8
  • The Other Side of the House (photographs by Tamarra Kaida). Tempe, AZ: Pyracantha Press, 1988.
  • Grace Notes. New York: Norton, 1989. ISBN 978-0-39302719-8
  • Selected Poems. New York: Pantheon, 1993. ISBN 978-0-67975080-2
  • Lady Freedom among Us. Burke, VT: Janus Press, 1993.
  • Mother Love: Poems. New York: Norton, 1995. ISBN 978-0-39331444-1
  • Evening Primrose (chapbook). Minneapolis, MN: Tunheim-Santrizos, 1998.
  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks: Poems. New York: Norton, 1999. ISBN 978-0-39304722-6
  • American Smooth. New York: Norton, 2004. ISBN 978-0-39305987-8
  • Sonata Mulattica: Poems. New York: Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-39307008-8


  • The Darker Face of the Earth: A play (first produced at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 1996; produced at Kennedy Center, 1997; produced in London, England, 1999). Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1994;
    • 3rd edition (revised), 2000.


  • Through the Ivory Gate. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Short fictionEdit


  • (Author of foreword) Multicultural Voices: Literature from the United States. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman, 1995.
  • The Poet's World (essays). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1995.
  • Conversations with Rita Dove (edited by Earl G. Ingersoll) Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.


  • The Best American Poetry 2000. New York: Scribner, 2000.
  • The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[6]

Audio / videoEdit

Poetry Everywhere "American Smooth" by Rita Dove01:55

Poetry Everywhere "American Smooth" by Rita Dove

  • Rita Dove (cassette). Kansas City, MO: University of Missouri, 1985.
  • Rita Dove II (cassette). Kansas City, MO: University of Missouri, 1993.
  • Selected Poems (cassette). New York: Random House Audio, 1993.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]

See also Edit

Preceded by
George Garrett
Poet Laureate of Virginia
Succeeded by
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

References Edit

  1. Poems by Rita Dove and biography at
  2. Rita Dove (2008). "Comprehensive Biography of Rita Dove". University of Virginia. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 [1], Information on Poets Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  4. The Heinz Awards, Rita Dove profile
  5. Virginia Law and Library of Congress List of Poets Laureate of Virginia
  6. Rita Dove b.1952, Poetry Foundation. Web, June 26, 2012.
  7. Search results = au:Rita Dove + audiobook, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Sep. 19, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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