Rita Dove Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How does Rita Dove represent the lives of African American women?

What defines motherhood for Dove?

The role of the artist is a frequent theme in Dove’s work. What does she find this role to be? What different kinds of art appear in her works?

How does Dove use form in her poetry? What does she do with sonnet form that is original and unusual?

How does Dove use myth in her work?

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Rita Dove has published Fifth Sunday (1985), a collection of short stories; Through the Ivory Gate (1992), a novel; and The Poet’s World (1995), a collection of essays. The Darker Face of the Earth, a verse drama, appeared in 1994.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Rita Dove’s literary honors include grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the General Electric Foundation. She spent 1988-1989 as a Senior Mellon Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. She served as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and poet laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She also was a special bicentennial consultant (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress along with poets W. S. Merwin and Louise Glück in 1999-2000. She became a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006.

In 1987, her collection Thomas and Beulah made her the first black woman since Gwendolyn Brooks to win the Pulitzer Prize. She has also been awarded the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award (1986), several Ohioana Book Awards for Poetry (1990, 1994, 2000), the Charles Frankel Prize/National Humanities Medal (1996), the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities (1996), the Sara Lee Frontrunner Award (1997), Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine (1998), the John Frederick Nims Translation Award (1999; together with Fred Viebahn), the Duke Ellington Lifetime Achivement Award (2001), the Emily Couric Leadership Award (2003), the Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service (2006; with others), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia (2008), and the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and the Premio Capri (both in 2009).


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Costello, Bonnie. “Scars and Wings: Rita Dove’s Grace Notes.” Callaloo 14, no. 2 (1991): 434-438.

Dove, Rita. “An Interview with Rita Dove.” Interview by Malin Pereira. Contemporary Literature 40, no. 2 (Summer, 1999): 182-213. This wide-ranging interview includes Dove’s comments on the writings of Breyten Breytenbach, the Black Arts movement, her own literary influences, and her experience living in the South.

Dove, Rita. “Coming Home.” Interview by Steven Schneider. The Iowa Review 19 (Fall, 1989): 112-123. This interview is devoted almost entirely to a discussion of Thomas and Beulah and the process of its creation.

Dove, Rita. Interview by Judith Kitchen and others. Black American Literature Forum 20 (Fall, 1986): 227-240. In this fine interview the bulk of attention is paid to Dove’s Museum, especially the poem “Parsley,” and to Thomas and Beulah. Dove is quite forthcoming in revealing certain writerly decisions and her method of working. She also discusses her short stories in Fifth Sunday.

Harrington, Walt. “A Narrow World Made Wide.” The Washington Post Magazine, May 7, 1995, 13-19, 28-29. Harrington provides a close examination of Dove in the process of writing. Her ambitions, work habits,...

(The entire section is 579 words.)