Contemporary Black American Poets and Dramatists

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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Rita Dove

b. 1952

RITA FRANCES DOVE was bom on August 28, 1952, in Akron, Ohio, to Ray A. Dove and Elvira Elizabeth Hord. Dove was a precocious child who ranked among the top one hundred high school seniors in the country and was therefore invited to the White House as a "Presidential Scholar." After graduating from high school, Dove entered Miami University at Oxford, Ohio.In 1973 she graduated summa cum laude, then entered Tübingen University in what was then West Germany on a Fulbright scholarship. While in Germany, Dove actively sought out Afro-Germans in an attempt to understand their circumstances. Dove discovered that many Afro-German women suffered from the same feelings of rejection and isolation that Dove had felt in the United States.Somewhat optimistically, she wrote about the possibility of unified action among black communities worldwide— action that would inspire a revolution in world consciousness. In 1979 Dove married a German writer, Fred Viebahn, with whom she had one child.

Upon returning from Germany, Dove entered the Iowa Writers Workshop, where she received an M.F.A. in 1977. She worked principally on her poetry, which thereafter increasingly appeared in magazines and journals. In 1977 Ten Poems, Dove's first book of verse, appeared. It reveals her interest in the revolutionary politics of the 1960s as well as the influence of other black revolutionary poets on her work, such as Don L. Lee ( Haki R. Madhubuti) and LeRoi Jones ( Amiri Baraka). Many of the poems in this first small volume were reprinted along with new verses in her first full-length collection, The Yellow House on the Corner ( 1980). For the most part, the collection was poorly received. Not until the publication of Museum ( 1983) and Thomas and Beulah ( 1986) did Dove receive considerable critical praise. The latter volume also won her a Pulitzer Prize, making her only the second black poet to have won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry (the first was Gwendolyn Brooks). Thomas and Beulah is a long narrative poem telling the story of her family from two points of view, her grandfather's and her


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