Recent and Latest News

  • 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."


    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

  • 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.

  • On the occasion of this year's Granada International Poetry Festival in Spain, Valparaiso Ediciones published a complete translation of Rita Dove's Playlist for the Apocalypse under the title Canciones para el apocalipsis, translated by Pedro Larrea. (Two years ago Valparaiso Ediciones had already published, also in Larrea's translation, her massive Sonata Mulattica - A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play.) A video of Rita and Pedro reading from Playlist / Canciones at Federico Garcia Lorca's birthplace in April 2023 can be found via this YouTube link.
    More information on the Spanish publications of these two books can be found via this link.
    Also, the Spanish edition of Rita Dove's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1986 masterpiece Thomas and Beulah, translated by Márgara Averbach for Universitat de València Publicacions, although currently out of print, is still available as an e-book.
  • Kevin Young, poet and current director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, interviewed Rita Dove for The Paris Review's Spring 2023 issue (out now). Below is an excerpt; visit this link to get full access!

    I first encountered Rita Dove in Essence magazine, where I learned that she’d won the 1987 Pulitzer for her book Thomas and Beulah (1986)—the first Black poet to be so awarded since Gwendolyn Brooks nearly four decades before. As a Black high schooler in Kansas who wrote poetry, or tried to, I distinctly remember wondering why no one had come to my door to inform me personally of this achievement—though I suppose the magazine, which then published poetry in its pages, had in fact done as much.

    Thomas and Beulah was a revelation. Written in lines musical, freighted, and precise, Dove’s sequence of poems about her grandparents’ marriage is shadowed by the Great Migration, World War II, and the civil rights movement. That book’s grand theme—the intimacy of history—courses through Dove’s oeuvre, starting with her debut, The Yellow House on the Corner(1980), and 1983’s Museum, a powerful collection that includes a poem called “Parsley,” which tells of the Dominican Republic leader Rafael Trujillo’s mass murder of Haitians on the pretext of “a single, beautiful word.” Dove’s ability to evoke a deadly dictator with irony and complexity is reminiscent of Milton’s sympathy for the devil in Paradise Lost or W. H. Auden’s damning “Epitaph on a Tyrant.”

    Dove’s first four books of poetry appeared at three-year intervals, a pace that slowed only slightly with Mother Love (1995) and On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999). Both refract her experiences of parenthood—she and her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn, have a daughter, Aviva—and of serving as the United States poet laureate, a role she occupied from 1993 to 1995, and which she transformed from what was once simply called the consultant in poetry into the prominent position it is today. Those early volumes, intertwined much as Lucille Clifton’s are, add up to an everyday epic that tells of the ways that public history is created through private lives—especially Black ones, which is still a revolutionary idea. Along the way, Dove finds kin in a variety of figures: an unnamed “House Slave,” sideshow performers in Berlin, Billie Holiday and Hattie McDaniel, Persephone and Demeter, a trickster “Spring Cricket.” She has also written several proper epics, including the symphonic Sonata Mulattica (2009), about the violinist George Bridgetower, the original dedicatee of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and, in Dove’s reimagining, a nexus from which to examine music, memory, racism, and underappreciated talent. As she writes of Holiday: “If you can’t be free, be a mystery.”

  • Lebanese writer and scholar Joumana Haddad spoke with Rita Dove at length for an interview that is now included in Haddad's collection of conversations, En busca de los ladrones del fuego: Entrevistas con grandes escritores del mundo, which was published in Spain a year ago today. Besides Rita Dove, it contains interviews with international greats Paul Auster, Umberto Eco, Peter Handke, Paulo Coelho, Mario Vargas Llosa, José Saramago, Yves Bonnefoy, Antonio Tabucchi, Nedim Gürsel, Elfriede Jelinek, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, and Tahar Ben Jelloun. Visit this link for more information and to order this title!
  • In January 2023 Rita Dove joined the governing board of the venerable American Academy of Arts and Letters for a three year term. On April 11 she attended her first in-person board meeting at the Academy's headquarters in New York City. Previously she had taken on major responsibilities in national organizations when she sat on the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs from 1985 to 1988 (serving as AWP's president in 1986/87), was a senator of Phi Beta Kappa from 1994 to 2000 and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012.

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