Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she attended Miami University of Ohio, Universität Tübingen in Germany, and the University of Iowa, where she earned her creative writing MFA in 1977. In 1987, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her third collection of poetry, Thomas and Beulah, and from 1993 to 1995, she served as U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress. Dove is a recipient of the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
Author of a novel, a book of short stories, essays, and numerous volumes of poetry, among them the National Book Award finalist and NAACP Image Award winner Collected Poems 1974–2004, she also edited The Best American Poetry 2000 and the Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011). Dove wrote poetry columns for the New York Times Magazine from 2018 to 2019 and The Washington Post from 2000 to 2002. Her drama The Darker Face of the Earth opened at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996 and the Kennedy Center in Washington in 1997, followed by its European premiere at the National Theatre in London in 1999. Her song cycle Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, was premiered by Cynthia Haymon with the Boston Symphony in 1998, and her song sequence A Standing Witness, 14 poems with music by Richard Danielpour, was sung by Susan Graham with the Copland House musicians at the Kennedy Center, the Tanglewood Music Festival, and other venues in 2021 and 2022. W.W. Norton published Dove’s latest volume of poems, Playlist for the Apocalypse, called “a vital collection of poems about history and mortality” by the New York Times while naming it a Top Book of 2021.
Dove’s numerous honors include Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Library of Virginia and the Fulbright Association, the 2014 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, the 2019 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the 2021 Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 16th (and third female and first African American) poet in the Medal’s 110-year history. In 1996, she received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton and in 2011, the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama—the only poet ever to receive both medals. To date, 29 honorary doctorates have been conferred upon Dove, most recently by Yale University, Emory University, Smith College, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa. She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), as a chancellor of Phi Beta Kappa, and as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. A member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she is the Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing.