| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove has an
international poetic vision. The settings of her enigmatic lyrics move from
Ohio to Germany to Israel; the time frames shift from the present to a past
both historical and personal. In a single volume, slaves, biblical characters,
mythological figures, and members of Dove’s own family stand side by side.
Although she has been rightly celebrated as an eloquent African American female
voice, her frequently shifting viewpoint suggests that she sees her work
transcending race and gender as well as time and place.
in 1952 in Akron, Ohio, Dove was the second of four children in a middle-class
family. Both her paternal grandfather and her father worked for the Goodyear
Tire and Rubber Company in Akron. Her father, Ray Dove, earned a master’s
degree and became the company’s first black chemist, though at the time of his
oldest daughter’s birth he was still restricted to running the company
Dove attended the public schools in Akron and then enrolled at Miami University
in Ohio, where she graduated summa cum laude in 1973. She then attended the
University of Tübingen on a Fulbright Scholarship and earned an MFA from the
University of Iowa in 1977.
poetry is grounded in reality yet capable of sky-high buoyancy. Her oblique,
sometimes otherworldly metaphors indicate a literary kinship with contemporary
Scandinavian poets such as Tomas Tranströmer. In her poems (“Ö,” for instance),
language itself often appears to be a form of salvation. As Dove put it in a
1991 interview, “I think one reason I became primarily a poet rather than a
fiction writer is that though I am interested in stories, I am profoundly
fascinated by the ways in which language can change your perceptions.”
1987 Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for Thomas and Beulah, a sequence of poems
about her grandparents’ courtship, marriage, and subsequent life in Akron. More
recently, she has published a sonnet sequence based on the Persephone myth,
Mother Love (1995); a verse drama, The Darker Face of the Earth (1994, rev. ed.
1996), an Oedipal tale set in antebellum South Carolina; and a collection of
lyrics, On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999). In addition to verse, she has
published short stories, essays, and a novel.
resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, Dove is Commonwealth Professor of
English at the University of Virginia.
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
In the Heath Anthology
The Oriental Ballerina
The Yellow House on the Corner
Thomas and Beulah
Through the Ivory Gate
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Modern American Poetry
An interview, criticism (by Dove and others), and links.
Offers a comprehensive list of Dove's writings and accomplishments.
The Academy of American Poets
Exhibit offering a biography, links, and texts of Adolescence II and The Bistro Styx.
The Rita Dove HomePage
Provides a brief biography and links.
Helen Vendler, The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Definition, 1995
Kevin Stein, Private Poets, Worldly Acts: Public and Private History in Contemporary American Poetry, 1997
Jacqueline Vaught Brogan and Cordelia Chavez Candelaria, eds., Women Poets of the Americas: Toward a Pan-American Gathering, 1999
Therese Steffen, Crossing Color: Transcultural Space and Place in Rita Dove's Poetry, Fiction, and Drama, 2000