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

 

Vacation

Rita Dove, 1952
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Reprinted from On the Wing, published by the University of Iowa Press.

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

As if the lid stayed put on the marmalade.
As if you could get the last sip of champagne
out of the bottom of the fluted glass.
As if we weren’t all dying, as if we all weren’t
going to die some time, as if we knew for certain
when, or how. As if the baseball scores made sense
to the

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
poem
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