Profile shot of Poet Rita Dove

August Spotlight on Poet Rita Dove

Poet Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio 28 August 1952

About Rita Dove

I was interested in reading poetry by Rita Dove because she has been a professor at The University of Virginia, where I got my graduate degrees, for many years. She has also been a Virginia Poet Laureate.

I’ve always thought she has a pretty name that is perfect for a poet, so I’m happy to report that “Dove” is actually her birth name.

You might be interested to know that Dove has also been the Poet Laureate for the United States. In addition, she was a special Bicentennial Poetry Consultant (the precursor to the “Poet Laureate” title) during the United States Bicentennial Celebration in the late 1970’s.

In addition to living in Ohio and Virginia, she has lived in Iowa and Arizona. Her husband was born in Germany, and she studied there as a Fulbright Scholar. The couple have also lived in Israel and Ireland.

Reading Rita Dove’s Poetry

Dove’s poetry covers a wide variety of topics. Among her most popular collections are Sonata Mullatica (a sort of poem novel), Mother Love, and On the Bus with Rosa Parks. These books, along with her collected poems, should be fairly easy to find in your public library. She will have a new book, Playlist for the Apocalypse, released in August, 2021, just before her 69th birthday.

I’m sure we can guess what the “apocalypse” she references might be, but I’m sure there’s more to it.

For this celebration, I read On the Bus with Rosa Parks. When I’m reading for the Poet Spotlight feature, I normally mark the poems I like as I read the entire collection, and from there, I narrow down to the 4 or 5 I will select for each Wednesday’s feature. This month, I discovered that I had selected 8 poems, in pairs of two. I was surprised, but I also thought this was a good opportunity.

I encourage people to read poetry in collections as originally published during the poet’s life because poets usually put a lot of work into them. When publishers change them later, they create a new meaning that has nothing to do with the poet’s intentions.

Becoming a successful poet is hard enough without editors mucking about in their work! Do we change the order of the chapters in novels?

Responding to Rita Dove’s Poetry

The meaning Dove creates through the juxtaposition of her poetry comes through clearly. For that reason, I decided to take a closer look at how poems together can create a text of their own, in addition to their individual meanings.

The reflection section for each poem will explain how the poems appear in On the Bus with Rosa Parks and my response to the two poems together.

That’s right, folks: for August only, two poems each week for the price of one!


Rita Dove’s Poetry on The Lois Level

Poems about Childhood

Poems about Chances

Poems about Books

If you are nervous about reading poetry, check out Reading Poetry: Why and How