RITA DOVE is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and served as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry between 1993-1995. She was the youngest person -- and the first African-American -- to receive that honor. While Poet Laureate, Ms. Dove brought a program of poetry and jazz to the Library's literary series, along with a reading by young Crow Indian poets and a two-day conference entitled "Oil on the Waters: The Black Diaspora," featuring panel discussions, readings, and music. As she accepted the Laureate position she noted that, "If only the sun-drenched celebrities are being noticed and worshiped, then our children are going to have a tough time seeing value in the shadows, where the thinkers, probers and scientists are who are keeping society together."
Born in Akron, Ohio in 1952, Ms. Dove was the daughter of the first black research chemist who, int he 1950's, broke the race barrier in the tire industry. She was named a high school Presidential Scholar and was graduated summa cum laude from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). She attended Universitat Tubingen (Germany) as a Fulbright fellow, and received her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. Her books include the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986) for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), and Mother Love. She has also written a volume of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), a novel, Through the Ivory Gate (1992), essays under the title The Poet's World (1995), and the play The Darker Face of the Earth, which received its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and had a four week run at the Kennedy Center in Washington last fall. She expects to release another collection of poetry in the spring of 1999.
She says of poetry, "What makes (it) spiritually nourishing in a way only poetry can be is that it can stop a moment, and by capturing one moment makes us take a break and look around and feel really alive. We're so sped up most of the time, we're just going through the motions of being alive."
Among other honors, Ms. Dove's poetry has earned her recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Achievement, and many others. In 1996, she received the National Medal in the Humanities, the U.S. government's highest honor for writers and scholars in the humanities.
She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband -- novelist, playwright and screenwriter Fred Viebahn -- and their daughter.