poem index

About this poet

On August 8, 1952, Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio.

Her books of poetry include Sonata Mulattica (W. W. Norton, 2009); American Smooth (W. W. Norton, 2004); On the Bus with Rosa Parks (W. W. Norton, 1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Mother Love (W. W. Norton, 1995); Selected Poems (Pantheon, 1993); Grace Notes (W. W. Norton, 1989); Thomas and Beulah (Carnegia-Mellon University Press, 1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Museum (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1983); and The Yellow House on the Corner (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980).

In addition to poetry, Dove has published a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (University of Kentucky Press, 1985), the novel Through the Ivory Gate (Pantheon, 1992), essays in The Poet's World and the verse drama The Darker Face of the Earth (Story Line Press, 1994). She also edited The Best American Poetry 2000 and The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Penguin, 2011).

Dove's work traverses a wide range of landscape, applying an unflinching eye upon historical and political events. In her most recent collection, American Smooth, she reflects on her experiences with ballroom dancing. "For Dove, dance is an implicit parallel to poetry," says Emily Nussbaum in The New York Times review of the collection. "Each is an expression of grace performed within limits; each an art weighted by history but malleable enough to form something utterly new."

She served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995. Among her many honors are the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the 2006 Common Wealth Award. President Bill Clinton bestowed upon her the 1996 National Humanities Medal. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006, and in 2014 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from Yale University.

Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, where she has been teaching since 1989. 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Sonata Mulattica (W. W. Norton, 2009)
American Smooth (W. W. Norton, 2004)
On the Bus with Rosa Parks (W. W. Norton, 1999)
Mother Love (W. W. Norton, 1995)
Selected Poems (Pantheon, 1993)
Grace Notes (W. W. Norton, 1989)
Thomas and Beulah (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986)
Museum (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1983)
The Yellow House on the Corner (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980)

Fiction

Through the Ivory Gate (Pantheon, 1992)
Fifth Sunday (University of Kentucky Press, 1985)

 


Multimedia

From the inaugural Poets Forum, October 20, 2007From the Image Archive 
  From the 2009 Poets Forum, October 17, 2009

 

Adolescence II

Rita Dove, 1952
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting.
Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert.
Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips.

Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round
As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines.
They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl,

One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door.
"Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.
I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle,

Patting their sleek bodies with their hands.
"Well, maybe next time." And they rise,
Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight,

And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes
They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness.
Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.

From Selected Poems by Rita Dove, published by Random House. © 1993 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Rita Dove served as the Poet Laureate for the United State from 1993 to 1995

by this poet

poem

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

poem
She was thinner, with a mannered gauntness
as she paused just inside the double
glass doors to survey the room, silvery cape
billowing dramatically behind her.  What's this,

I thought, lifting a hand until
she nodded and started across the parquet;
that's when I saw she was dressed all in gray,
from a
poem
Oh you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn, 
or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me....
	The Heiligenstadt Testament

Three miles from my adopted city 
lies a village where I came to peace.
The world there was a calm place, 
even the great Danube no more 
than a pale ribbon tossed