06.01.1994 - By Women in Literature (Audio)
Rita Dove is one of America's best-known and most honored poets. Her collection of poems, Thomas and Beulah, based on the lives of her grandparents, earned her the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She was only the second African-American to win this prize. In 1993, she was appointed to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She was the youngest person, and the first African-American, to receive this highest official honor in American letters. From an early age, Rita loved poetry and music. As one of the most outstanding high school graduates of her year, she was invited to the White House as a Presidential Scholar. She began to pursue writing seriously while studying at Miami University in Ohio. After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in English in 1973, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany for two years at the University of Tubingen. She then joined the famous Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, receiving her Masters' Degree in 1977. Appearances in magazines and anthologies won national acclaim for Rita Dove before she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner in 1980. Other publications by Rita Dove include a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday, the poetry collections Grace Notes, Selected Poems and Mother Love, and the novel Through the Ivory Gate. In 2009, she published Sonata Mulattica, a book-length cycle of poems telling the story of the 19th century African-European violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower and his turbulent friendship with Ludwig van Beethoven. Today, she holds the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. In this podcast, recorded at the 1994 International Achievement Summit in Las Vegas, while she was serving as U.S. Poet Laureate, Rita Dove reads several of her poems and considers the nature of inspiration, innocence, and evil.