Monday, 28 October 2013


                                               BLACK               SOCIAL                HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Rita Frances Dove  born August 28, 1952 is an American poet and author. From 1993–1995 she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She was the first African American to be appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986 out of the previous "consultant in poetry" position (1937–86). Dove also received an appointment as "special consultant in poetry" for the Library of Congress's bicentennial year from 1999–2000. Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.

Early years

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), and Elvira Hord, who achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter. In 1970 Dove graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar. Later, Dove graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Miami University in 1973 and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977. In 1974 she held a Fulbright Scholarship from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany.


Dove taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989. She received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry and was named United States Poet Laureate  by the Librarian of Congress, an office she held from 1993 to 1995. At age 40, Dove was the youngest person to hold the position and is the first African American to hold the position since the title was changed to Poet Laureate (Robert Hayden had served as the first non-white Consultant in Poetry from 1976 to 1978, and Gwendolyn Brooks had been the last Consultant in Poetry in 1985–86). Early in her tenure as poet laureate, Bill Moyers featured Rita Dove in a one-hour interview on his PBS prime-time program Bill Moyers Journal. Since 1989 she has been teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English.
Rita Dove also served as a Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry to 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 Virginia. In her public posts, Dove concentrated on spreading the word about poetry and increasing public awareness of the benefits of literature. As United States Poet Laureate, for example, she also brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists.
Dove was on the board of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) (now "Association of Writers and Writing Programs") from 1985 to 1988 and led the organization as its president from 1986 to 1987. From 1994 to 2000 she was a senator (member of the governing board) of the national academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa, and from 2006 to 2012 she served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Since 1991 she has been on the jury of the annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards -- from 1991 to 1996 serving together with Ashley Montagu and Henry Louis Gates and since 1997 with Gates, Joyce Carol Oates, Simon Schama, Stephen Jay Gould (until his death in 2002) and Steven Pinker (who replaced Gould in 2002).
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. 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 the play The Darker Face of the Earth (revised stage version 1996), which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival inAshland, 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 SymphonyTanglewood, 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.[8] Dove's latest and, to date, most ambitious collection of poetry, Sonata Mulattica, was published in 2009. Over its more than 200 pages, it "has the sweep and vivid characters of a novel", as Mark Doty wrote in O, The Oprah Magazine.
Dove edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, published in 2011.[11][12] It provoked heated controversy as she was accused of valuing an inclusive, populist agenda over quality. Poet John Olson commented that "her exclusions are breathtaking". Well-known poets left out include Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Sterling Brown, Louis Zukofsky, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff and Lorine Niedecker. As Dove explained in her foreword and in media interviews, Plath, Ginsberg and Brown were among her original selections but in the end left out against her editorial wishes; their contributions had to be removed from print-ready copy at the very last minute because their publisher forbade their inclusion due to a disagreement over permission fees. Critic Helen Vendler condemned Dove's choices, asking "why are we being asked to sample so many poets of little or no lasting value?". Dove defended her choices and omissions vigorously in her response to Vendler in The New York Review of Books, as well as in wide-ranging interviews with The Writer's Chronicle, with poet Jericho Brown on the Best American Poetry website and with Bill Moyers on his public television show Moyers & Company. The Boston Review continued the discussion from different angles with an aggressive attack by scholar Marjorie Perloff and a spirited counter-attack by poet and scholar Evie Shockley, taking on both Vendler and Perloff.

Awards and honors

Besides her Pulitzer Prize, Rita Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them 24 honorary doctorates (most recently, in 2013, from Emerson College and Emory University), the 1996 National Humanities Medal / Charles Frankel Prize from President Bill Clinton, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 1997, and more recently, the 2006 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service in Literature, the 2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University, the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2009 Premio Capri and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.]
She has been a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival on many occasions, most recently in 2010. The annual "Rita Dove Poetry Award" was established by Salem College Center for Women Writers in 2004.
Rita Dove is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Personal life

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