Share This Page
If you like Rita Dove's story, you might also like:
Ernest J. Gaines,
Coretta Scott King,
Joyce Carol Oates,
John Updike and
Rita Dove's recommended reading:
Rita Dove also appears in the videos:
Justice and the Citizen: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. 2,
So, You Want to Be a Writter,
Justice and the Citizen: From the Indian Reservation to the Inner City, The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
The Power of Words,
Media and Social Responsibility
Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Rita Dove in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Martin Luther King Day
The Genius of Creativity
The Power of Words
Poets & Poetry
African American Literature
Rita Dove Biography
Former Poet Laureate of the United States
Rita Dove Date of birth: August 28, 1952
Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio. Her father, Ray A. Dove, was a chemist, and a pioneer of integration in American industry. Both of her parents encouraged persistent study and wide reading. From an early age, Rita loved poetry and music. She played cello in her high school orchestra, and led her high school's majorette squad. As one of the most outstanding high school graduates of her year, she was invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar.
At Miami University in Ohio, she began to pursue writing seriously. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in English in 1973, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany for two years at the University of Tubingen. She then joined the famous Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, receiving her Masters' Degree in 1977. At Iowa, she met another Fulbright scholar, a young writer from Germany named Fred Viebahn. They were married in 1979. Their daughter Aviva was born in 1983.
From 1981 to 1989, Rita Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University. Appearances in magazines and anthologies had won national acclaim for Rita Dove before she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner in 1980. It was followed by Museum (1983) and Thomas and Beulah, (1986) a collection of interrelated poems loosely based on the life of her grandparents.
Thomas and Beulah won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
In 1993, Rita Dove was appointed to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She was the youngest person, and the first African-American, to receive this highest official honor in American letters. In the fall of 1994, she read her poem, Lady Freedom Among Us, at the ceremony commemorating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Capitol.
Other publications by Rita Dove include a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday, the poetry collections Grace Notes, Selected Poems and Mother Love, and the novel Through the Ivory Gate. Her verse drama, The Darker Face of the Earth had its world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the 1986. Another production of the play appeared at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., in 1997.
Dove has brought her poetry to television audiences through her appearances on CNN and NBC's Today Show. Public Broadcasting has devoted an hour-long prime time special to her life and work. She has shared television stages with Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers and Big Bird. On radio, she has hosted a National Public Radio special on Billie Holliday, and has been a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion.
She joined former President Jimmy Carter top welcome an unprecedented gathering of Nobel Laureates in Literature to Atlanta, Georgia for a Cultural Olympiad held in conjunction with the 1996 Olympic Games. That same year, a symphonic work for orchestra and narrator -- "Umoja -- Each One of Us Counts," -- was performed at Atlanta's Symphony Hall with Rita Dove's text performed by former Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.
Dove's lifelong interest in music has taken other forms. She has provided text for works by composers Tania Leon, Bruce Dolphe and Alvin Singleton. Her song cycle Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, was featured on a PBS television special with the Boston Symphony. In 2009, she published Sonata Mulattica, a book-length cycle of poems telling the story of the 19th century African-European violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower and his turbulent friendship with Ludwig van Beethoven.
Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, the German author Fred Viebahn. They have one daughter. In her spare time, she studies classical voice and practices the viola da gamba, a 17th century forerunner of the modern cello.