Recent and Latest News

  • From Mercer University:

    Mercer University’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies will award the 2024 Thomas Robinson Prize for Southern Literature to former Poet Laureate of the United States Rita Dove. The prize will be presented Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. in the University’s Presidents Dining Room.

    “The litany of awards and accolades Rita Dove has received testify to the singular fact that she is one of the most important writers in American letters,” said Dr. David A. Davis, chair of the Robinson Prize Committee. “As a poet, she is a virtuoso of form, capable of bending verse to her will, capturing melody without notes and rhythm without drumbeats. Her true importance, though, lies in the subjects she explores in her poems. She uses her verse to tell the stories of people overlooked by history, humble people, such as her grandparents who left the South to settle in the Midwest. These stories are vital to the narrative of the United States, and Professor Dove tells them with the majesty they deserve.”

    The Thomas Robinson Prize, previously known as the Sidney Lanier Prize, was first awarded in 2012. The prize is awarded to writers who have engaged and extended the long, often complicated, tradition of writing about the South. More information about it and the Feb. 23 event can be found here.

  • On January 30, the Folger Shakespeare Library, an independent research library on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and holder of the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare, announced it will reopen on Friday, June 21, 2024 after extensive renovations. As a part of those renovations, three artists were commissioned to create works that reflect the Folger’s mission and offer visitors creative entry points through which to consider Shakespeare and the early modern world. Included among these is a poem written by Rita Dove that is now inscribed upon the garden wall along the path that leads visitors down to the Folger’s new west entrance from East Capitol and 2nd St. SE.

    “I have such a deep love for the Folger Shakespeare Library,” Dove said. “Just walking into the space, what it did to my sensibility and how it helped to refresh my soul. I wanted to recreate that feeling that I had every time I walked into the Folger, so that if someone were to be reading any portion of the poem as they walked in, it would help to guide them.”

    Barbara Bogaev of the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast interviewed Rita Dove about her process of writing the poem; the transcript of that interview can be viewed here. The full text of the poem can be viewed at this link, and you can find more information about the Folger reopening here.

  • From UVA Arts, Jan. 29, 2024:

    UVA Arts will present A Standing Witness, a powerful and provocative song cycle collaboration between Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour and Pulitzer Prize-winner, former U.S. Poet Laureate, and UVA faculty member Rita Dove on Thursday, March 21 and Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 PM at Old Cabell Hall. The piece will feature internationally renowned mezzo soprano Susan Graham along with the acclaimed chamber ensemble Music from Copland House.

    A Standing Witness is a 75-minute-long cycle of 14 songs and one instrumental elegy that is a sweeping retrospective of momentous events and eras in American history over the past half-century from the perspective of an observer who has seen it all yet is not revealed until the epilogue. By highlighting and remarking upon historic events ranging from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy to Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Woodstock, 9/11 and more, Dove challenges audiences to truly consider what it is to be an American with this collection of “songs you need to hear” (Opera News) that Vermont Public Radio has said has “the potential to become one of the most influential compositions of the century.” 

    The song cycle was written by Danielpour, one of the most gifted and sought-after composers of his generation, for Susan Graham, hailed as “America’s favorite mezzo” by Gramophone, and “an artist to treasure” by the New York Times. Graham rose to the highest echelons of the classical world within years of her debut, mastering an astonishing range of repertoire and genres along the way. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which was written especially for her. A familiar face at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she also maintains a strong international presence at such key venues as Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, Santa Fe Opera and the Hollywood Bowl. 

    Music from Copland House, the resident ensemble at Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home in New York, is known for uniting past and present, and the American and non-American, as it journeys through 150 years of musical legacy to perform everything from nineteenth century works to contemporary compositions. Lauded by The New Yorker as “bold,” “adventurous,” and “superb,” the ensemble includes flutist Carol Wincenc, clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, violinist Siwoo Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, and pianist Michael Boriskin. 

    More information, including information about performance times and tickets, can be found here.

  • On Wednesday, January 24, the Academy of American Poets presented its Leadership Award to Rita Dove, faculty member in the University of Virginia's English department since 1989, at Trinity Wall Street in New York City. It was the Academy's first public in-person event since 2019 and the onset of the Covid pandemic. Together with publishing house W. W. Norton, as well as the philanthropists William I. Campbell and Jonathan Plutzik, Professor Dove was honored for her advocacy of poets and poetry across the nation. 

    “As we enter our ninetieth year and look toward the future of our organization, we acknowledge the members of our community who have gone above and beyond for the cause of poetry,” said Ricardo Alberto Maldonado, Academy president and executive director. "It is doubly momentous to honor American poet extraordinaire Rita Dove alongside her visionary publisher W.W. Norton & Company for their mutual roles in expanding the realm of contemporary American poetry to be even more imaginative, dazzling, and impactful."

  • From The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 15, 2023:

    National Book Award finalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove was honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. "The poet is called upon to use words like stepping stones to carry herself and her readers across that unarticulated turbulence, the unwarranted depths within us," Dove said while accepting her award. "Granted, that's pretty frightening stuff, which may be why many people are wary of poetry, afraid they won't understand it the right way."

    "In today's endangered intellectual climate, my cynical self might say that it's why the woefully growing list of censored and banned books in American schools and libraries includes relatively little poetry. Unless that commercial success breaks the ears of those reactionary book burners, who rather than risk being asked to explain what exactly it is that strikes them as dangerous in our stances, have left us to our corner of the sky hoping that no one can hear us above their shouts. But we keep on strumming our harps."

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    Rita Dove received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters as only the fourth poet in the cross-genre lifetime achievement category's history, joining Gwendolyn Brooks (1994), Adrienne Rich (2006) and John Ashbery (2011). Her acceptance speech as well as LaVar Burton's and Jericho Brown's introductions can be watched and heard here


  • The latest scholarly publication about Rita Dove's work, Towards Post-Blackness: A Critical Study of Rita Dove's Poetry by Lekha Roy, has been published by Peter Lang. More information, including author information and a book synopsis, can be found at this link.

  • Rita Dove has been named as the recipient of the 2023 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the National Book Foundation's lifetime achievement award, to be celebrated at the National Book Awards ceremony in New York on November 15. She is only the fourth poet to be so honored, after Gwendolyn Brooks in 1994, Adrienne Rich in 2006, and John Ashbery in 2011.

    Here are the links to the National Book Foundation's press release and to the Associated Press article.

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