Rita Dove

Rita Dove

(1952–)
Charlottesville
Poet

Ohio native Rita Dove realized her love of poetry as a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After earning her English degree with honors in 1973, she spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Germany. Dove then joined the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she received an MFA in 1977. Since 1989 she has taught in the creative writing department at the University of Virginia, where she is the Commonwealth Professor of English.

Dove published her first collection of poetry in 1980. Her third book, Thomas and Beulah (1986), a collection of poems based on the lives of her grandparents, who had migrated from the South to Ohio, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. She has also published short stories, a novel, and a play, as well as lyrics for musical compositions. Dove edited the landmark work The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2011), in which she showcased the diversity of American poets.

Dove was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1993, the youngest person and first African American named to the largely ceremonial post. She raised the position's profile during her two years of service, traveling around the country, working with students, and even appearing on TV's Sesame Street. From 2004 to 2006 she also served as Poet Laureate of Virginia. Throughout her career Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, including the Library of Virginia's Literary Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) and the National Medal of the Arts (2011), the nation's highest honor for artists.