ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Rita Dove - A Pulitzer Prize winning Akron poet

Updated on August 29, 2014
  • Published 9 volumes of poetry
  • Fifth Sunday (1985) - a book of short stories
  • The Poet's World (1995) - a collection of essays
  • Through the Ivory Gate (1992) - a novel
  • The Darker Face of the Earth (1994) - a play that premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR in 1996.
  • First European production of her play at the Royal National
    Theatre, London 1999
  • Sonata Mulattica (2009) - her latest collection of poetry

Rita Dove 1952-

Only two years my senior and quite an inspiration to me and many others, Rita Dove, is an American contemporary poet and author, born and raised right here in Akron, Ohio. Poets come from anywhere and everywhere, and Rita Dove has represented Akron as a poet extraordinaire in this country.

She was born in 1952 to Ray Dove and Elvira Hord. Her father had the distinction of being the first African-American chemist to work in the U.S. tire Industry. He was a research chemist at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. For this area, that is really accomplishing something.

Her mother was an honors high school student who passed on her passion for reading to Rita.

Rita grew up in Akron and graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar which meant she was one of the 100 top American high school graduates that year. She went on to graduate summa cum laude with a BA from Miami University in 1973 and continued on with her education, graduating with an MFA in 1977 from the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa.

She received a Fulbright Scholarship from Eberhard Karls Universitat, Tubingen, Germany in 1974. After her academic career she went on the teach creative writing at Arizona State University, all the while continuing to write poetry and short stories.

In 1987, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Thomas and Beulah, a collection of poems based on the lives of her maternal grandparents. This is her most famous work to date and it was published in 1986 by the Carnegie-Mellon University Press. She is the second African-American to receive this prize.

Also, in this year she was named Poet Laureate of the United States. As poet laureate she concentrated on spreading the word about poetry and increasing the publics' awareness of the benefits of literature, long her passion received from her mother.

From 1993-95 she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and is the first African-American to be appointed and to serve that position.

Today, she lives with her husband, Fred Viebahn, a German born writer and their daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn, in Charlottesville, VA. She has been teaching at the University of Virginia since 1989 and holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English there. She continues to write poetry today.

Her poetry is quite unusual and unique and her work cannot be categorized or labeled into one area. Some of her poetry is personal, but it cannot be confined to a specific era or school in contemporary literature.

She also writes on wide-ranging topics with precise poetic language and she captures complex emotions that defy categorization.

Along with having received the Pulitzer Prize and Poet Laureate of the U.S., Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors over the years. She has received 24 honorary doctorate degrees, the most recent in 2013 from Emerson University in Boston, and Emory University in Atlanta.

She has collaborated with music composer John Williams and contributed to a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial and accompanied by his music for the White House 1999/2000 New Year's Celebration, which I watched by the way. It was marvelous.

In 2011, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama and the same year she edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011) which sparked a controversy in her choice of selection of poets to include. She was accused by some critics of valuing an inclusive populist agenda over quality in her selection of poems.

She vigorously defended her selections of poems on Bill Moyer's, Moyers & Co. seen on PBS and also to The New York Review of Books.

She included such poets as Wallace Stevens, T.S. Elliott, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Anne Sexton among others. I think her choices were good ones for this anthology.

Her contribution to the poetry and the literature of this country has been interesting, beautiful, and wonderful and she has carved out a place in our country's literature for posterity.

Rita Dove reads her poetry

Rita Dove receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2011.
Rita Dove receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2011. | Source

More Rita Dove Poetry

Here are two more of Dove's poems from the University of Illinois website. ( These are from her early writings.

Golden Oldie

I made it home early, only to get

stalled in the driveway - swaying

at the wheel like a blind pianist caught in a tune

meant for more than two hands playing

The words were easy, crooned

by a young girl dying to feel alive, to discover

a pain majestic enough

to live by. I turned the air conditioning off,

leaned back to float on a film of sweat,

and listened to her sentiment:

Baby, where did the love go? - a lament

I greedily took in

without a clue who my lover

might be, or where to start looking.


Just when hope withers, the visa is granted..

The door opens to a street like in the movies,

clean of people, of cats; except it is your street

you are leaving. A visa has been granted,

"provisionally" - a fretful word.

The windows you have closed behind

you are turning pink doing what they do

every dawn. Here it's gray. The door

to the taxicab waits. This suitcase,

the saddest object in the world.

Well, the world's open. And now through

the windshield the sky begins to blush

as you did when your mother told you

what it took to be a woman in this life.

Have you read Rita Dove's poetry before this?

See results

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)