Ms. Rita Dove

Virginia, United States

Member Since: 08/22/2012

Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995, making her the youngest person – and the first African-American – to receive this highest official honor in American letters. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and, more recently, the 2011 National Medal of Arts (presented in February 2012 by President Barack Obama), the 2010 Ambassador Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented at Oklahoma Celebration of the Book, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and the Premio Capri (both in 2009), the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University, the 2006 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, the New York Public Library's Library Lion medal in 2000 (as well as its "Literary Lion" medal in 1990), the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the 1996 National Humanities Medal (presented by President Bill Clinton), Glamour magazine's 1993 Woman of the Year award, and 24 honorary doctorates. She served as Poet Laureate of the State of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952; her father was the first African-American research chemist who, shortly after her birth, broke the race barrier in the tire industry. A 1970 Presidential Scholar as one of the 100 top high school graduates in the U.S. that year, she received her B.A. summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio in 1973 and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1977. In 1974/75 she held a Fulbright scholarship at Universität Tübingen in Germany.

Rita Dove's publications include the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986), Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), Mother Love (1995), On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), American Smooth (2004) and Sonata Mulattica (2009), a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), the 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 had its world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996 and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London, and on many other stages. Seven for Luck, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1998. 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' music and televised worldwide – a poem to Steven Spielberg's documentary The Unfinished Journey. She is the editor of Best American Poetry 2000, and from 2000 to 2002 she wrote a weekly column, “Poet's Choice”, for The Washington Post. She is the sole editor of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (October 2011).

Rita Dove was president of AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) from 1986 to 1987 and a senator of Phi Beta Kappa from 1994-2000. From 2006 to 2012, she served a six-year term as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Rita Dove, who taught at Tuskegee Institute and Arizona State University earlier in her academic career, is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she and her husband, the German writer Fred Viebahn, have been living since 1989. They have a grown daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn.

A comprehensive biography and additional biographical material may be found at:



  • U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-1995)(2012)
  • Pulitzer Prize for Poetry(2012)


  • Commonwealth Professor of English at University of Virginia (January 2012 - January 2012)

Genres of Interest

Fiction, Creative nonfiction, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Children's literature , Poetry