Rita Dove was born in the year 1952 in the city of Akron, Ohio. Her father was a research chemist at the Goodyear plant in Akron and her mother, a homemaker. As a child, the young Dove had a particular fondness and passion for books and said that her parents encouraged her to read anything that she pleased; her parents valued and understood the importance of an education. Dove went on to graduate summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio, and then to study German at the Universit╔t T─bingen, where she would become a Fulbright Scholar. She also received her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa. It was there where she met her husband to be, German novelist and playwright Fred Viebahn. Together, the two currently reside in Charlottesville, Virginia with their daughter Aviva. She is presently a Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia where she teaches creative writing.
Dove has been the recipient of many prestigous awards and has held various seats and positions. She was the seventh Poet Laureate/Consultant in Poetry of the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. She was the youngest person ever appointed to that position as well as the first African American ever appointed. She has also been honored with fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1978 and 1989 and from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1983-84. Dove has been given honorary doctorates from several different universities and colleges. She has held residencies at Tuskegee Institute, the National Humanities Center and the Rockefeller Foundation's Villa Serbelloni in Italy. She was named Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine and given the NAACP Great American Artist Award, both in 1993.
She won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book of poems, Thomas and Beulah. She has been given the Folger Shakespere Library's Renaissance Forum Award, the General Electric Foundation award, as well as many other honors. In 1995 she along with Jimmy Carter, welcomed a gathering of Nobel Laureates in Literature to the city of Atlanta, Georgia; hosted by the Cultural Olympiad of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Dove was also responsible for writing the text for Alvin Singleton's symphony "Umoja - Each One of Us Counts," which was comissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to be performed during the opening festivities of last summer's Olympic Games held in Atlanta.
Rita Dove's first work, The Yellow House on the Corner was published in 1980. It is a collection of poems dealing with various topics and experiences such as adolescence, romantic encounters, and glimpses into slave history. It was received well by most critics and caught the attention of her peers. Thomas and Beulah, another collection of poems is probably her most famous piece of literature. One critic wrote "She speaks with a directness and a dramatic intensity that commands attention... Rita Dove fashions imaginative constructs that strike the reader as much by their 'rightness' as their originality." Using her poetry, she recounts the lives of her two grandparents, telling both sides of their story: Thomas first, and then Beulah, which in a sense gives her the last word. Dove explains their viewpoints regarding each other and life with a simple, yet elegant and realistic prose.
Dove has penned many collections of poems, however Through the Ivory Gate was her initial attempt at writing a novel. Encouraged by her husband and publishers, she wrote this story about a young African American woman and her experiences as she returns to her hometown (which, coincidentally is Akron) to perform and teach children at a local school about puppets and creative arts. Like the story's young protagonist, Dove herself is also very involved with younger children. She has appeared on such shows such as "Sesame Street" and NBC's "The Today Show" attempting to draw people who have little prior interest to poetry. Her self declared intention is "to bring poetry into everyday discourse ... to make it much more of a household word."
Poems - 20 in all
Primer For The Nuclear Age
My Mother Enters the Work Force
The Fish in the Stone
Lady Freedom Among Us
Heart to Heart