Rita Dove headshot

Rita Dove

Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing

417 Bryan Hall



M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1977
B.A. (summa cum laude), Miami University, 1973
29 Honorary Doctorates — from Miami University, Knox College, Tuskegee University, University of Miami, Washington University, Case Western Reserve University, The University of Akron, Arizona State University, Boston College, Dartmouth College, Spelman College, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of Notre Dame, Northeastern University, Columbia University, SUNY Brockport, Washington & Lee University, Howard University, the Pratt Institute, Skidmore College, Duke University, Emerson College, Emory University, Yale University, Smith College, Harvard University, University of Michigan, and University of Iowa.
Rita Dove was U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993–1995 and—with Louise Glück and W.S. Merwin—Special Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress bicentennial in 1999/2000, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004–2006. In 1987 she received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book Thomas and Beulah. Her other books of poetry include Playlist for the Apocalypse, Collected Poems 1974–2004Sonata Mulattica, American SmoothOn the Bus with Rosa Parks, Mother LoveGrace NotesMuseumThe Yellow House on the Corner and Selected Poems; she has also published a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday, the novel Through the Ivory Gate, and a collection of her Poet Laureate lectures, The Poet’s World. In addition, she edited the seminal anthologies Best American Poetry 2000 and The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2011). Her verse drama The Darker Face of the Earth had its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996 and was staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other places. Her song cycle Seven For Luck was set to music by John Williams and premiered by soprano Cynthia Haymon and the Boston Symphony under the composer’s baton at Tanglewood in 1998, and the following year she collaborated with John Williams and Steven Spielberg on “America's Millennium” at the Lincoln Memorial. Her song cycle A Standing Witness, with music by Richard Danielpour, was first sung by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham at The Kennedy Center, among other venues, in 2021. The Unhealed Wound, a second song cycle with composer Richard Danielpour, premiered at Skidmore College in September 2023.
Ms. Dove has received, in addition to honorary doctorates from 29 institutions of higher learning (among them Yale and Harvard) and a number of other honors and awards, both Library Lion and Literary Lion citations from the New York Public Library, a Fund for New American Plays Award from the Kennedy Center, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts, the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award in the Literary Arts, the 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award, the 2006 Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service (together with Queen Noor of Jordan, Anderson Cooper, John Glenn and Mike Nichols), the 2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University, the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2009 International Capri Award, the 2010 Ambassador Award from the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, the 2010 Ohioana Award and the 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Sonata Mulattica, the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, the 2014 Furious Flower Lifetime Achievement Award at James Madison University, the 2014 Carole Weinstein Prize of the Library of Virginia, the 2015 Poetry and People International Prize in Guangdong, China, the 2016 Stone Award for Lifetime Achievement at Oregon State University, a 2017 NAACP Image Award and a 2017 Library of Virginia Award for Collected Poems 1974–2004, the 2017 Harold Washington Literary Award, the inaugural U.S. Presidential Scholars Award from the Presidential Scholars Foundation, also in 2017 (together with fellow 1970 presidential and national merit scholar Merrick Garland), the 2018 Alice Dunbar Nelson Award for Literary Achievement, the 2018 Cleveland Arts Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the 2018 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, the 2019 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ 2021 Gold Medal in Poetry (as the third woman and first African American in the medal’s 110 year history). In 2022, she received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for lifetime achievement from the Library of Congress, followed in 2023 by the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation (as only the fourth poet to be so honored, after Gwendolyn Brooks in 1994, Adrienne Rich in 2006 and John Ashbery in 2011). Most recently, she received the 2024 Academy of American Poets Leadership Award and the 2024 Thomas Robinson Prize for Southern Literature from Mercer University.
In 2015 Rita Dove delivered the U.K. Poetry Society Annual Lecture in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh. She was the 2013 commencement speaker at Emory University and the 2016 commencement speaker at the University of Virginia, and in 2018 she delivered the commencement address at Smith College. Besides serving on the boards of numerous organizations, she was president of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) from 1986 to 1987, a senator of Phi Beta Kappa from 1994 to 2000, weekly poetry columnist of The Washington Post Book World from 2000 to 2003, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2005 to 2012, and poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine from 2018 to 2019. She is a member of PEN America, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (currently vice president for literature) and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. 


Creative Writing, Poetry


Playlist for the Apocalypse, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2021
Collected Poems: 1974-2004, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2016
Sonata Mulattica (paperback edition), W. W. Norton & Co., 2010
Sonata Mulattica, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009
American Smooth, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004
On the Bus with Rosa Parks , W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999
Evening Primrose , Tunheim-Santrizos, 1998
The Poet's World, Library of Congress, 1995
Mother Love, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1995
Lady Freedom Among Us , Janus Press, 1994
(commissioned by the University of Virginia Library as its four-millionth volume) 
The Darker Face of the Earth, Story Line Press, 1994
Selected Poems, Pantheon/Vintage, 1993
Through the Ivory Gate, Pantheon Books, 1992
Grace Notes, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1989
Thomas and Beulah, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986
Fifth Sunday, Callaloo Fiction Series, 1985
Museum, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1983
The Yellow House on the Corner, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1980

Special Projects

Poem commissioned by the Folger Shakespeare Library, inscribed along entranceway through public pavilion and gardens. Washington, D.C., 2024.
Lady Freedom Among Us (poem, online project). The University of Virginia Libraries, 1994.


The Darker Face of the Earth: Premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon, July 1996 (directed by Ricardo Khan); other professional productions at Crossroads Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ, and The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., October/November 1997; the Royal National Theatre, London, August 1999; the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, March 2000; the Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles, September 2000; Take Wing and Soar Productions, Off-Broadway, New York City, February 2006; Essential Theatre, Atlanta, July/August 2010; numerous college & university theatre productions and a number of stage readings, including one directed by Derek Walcott at the 92nd St. "Y" in New York City in 1995.

Major Musical Collaborations

  • The Unhealed Wound, song cycle with poems by Rita Dove and music by Richard Danielpour. Performed by Metropolitan Opera soloists, guest musicians and Skidmore College chorus at Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, September 29, 2023.
  • Visionary Sounds: Rita Dove, collaboration with Orchestra of St. Luke’s, performed at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, NY, November 29, 2022.
  • Beethoven & Bridgetower, collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Belvoir Theater Company, performed at Belvoir St. Theatre in Sydney, Australia, March – December 2021.
  • A Standing Witness, poems by Rita Dove with music by Richard Danielpour. Performed at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater by Susan Graham and Music from Copland House, November 4, 2021, among other venues.
  • Poets in the Playhouse: Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah. Dove's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection was brought to the stage in a theatrical performance by students of Queens College in conjunction with the Poetry Society of America, performed in The Little Theatre, Queens College, New York, NY, May 4, 2012.
  • Ozone, multi-disciplinary collaboration based on Rita Dove's poem, "Ozone". Dance by Bowen McCauley Dance, revised and re-released for its 16th Anniversary Season: Le Sacre du Printemps& More, music by Larry Alan Smith, poem read by Rita Dove, performed in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, March 1-2, 2012.
  • Long Time Coming, music by Lara Downes with narration of Dove's poem, "Testimonial," as prelude to 2nd movement "promise" composed by David Sanford, premiered at the Robert and Margaret Mondavi Center for the Perfoming Arts at University of California David, April 9-10, 2011.
  • Ozone, multi-disciplinary collaboration based on Rita Dove's poem, "Ozone". Dance by Bowen McCAuley Dance, premiered for it 15th Anniversary Season: Red. Hot. Fabulous!, music by Larry Alan Smith, poem read by Rita Dove, performed in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC, March 26, 2011.
  • Reflections, music by Tania Leon, premiered by Son Sonora Ensemble at the Harlem Stage Theater, New York, November 2006.
  • Umoja - Each One Of Us Counts, music by Alvin Singleton, commissioned by the Atlanta Olympic Summer Games, July 1996, with Andrew Young as narrator. Also at Plymouth Music Series, Minneapolis Orchestra Hall, Feb. 1998, with the author as narrator. Also broadcast nationally on NPR.
  • Singin' Sepia, music by Tania Leon, premiered by Ensemble Continuum at Merkin Concert Hall, New York, February 1996.
  • Grace Notes, a song cycle for soprano, clarinet, vibraphone, cello, and piano, music by Bruce Adolph, premiered at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, January 1997.
  • The Pleasure's In Walking Through, composition by Walter Ross to poems by Rita Dove, sung by Rita Dove, Oratorio Society, Charlottesville Performing Arts Center, March 1998.
  • Seven for Luck, seven poems by Rita Dove with music by John Williams, The Boston Symphony, Cynthia Haymon, soprano, John Williams, conducting. Tanglewood, July 25, 1998. Also broadcast on select NPR stations.
  • Thomas and Beulah, music by Amnon Wolman; Cynthia Haymon, Soprano, Ursula Oppens, Piano, Amnon Wolman, Electronics, recorded live at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2002; includes multimedia-enhanced CD.

Audiovisual Productions

  • “Sounds & Stories: Rita Dove,” Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York), premiered May 5, 2021, accompanied by a film of approx. 45 minutes based on Sonata Mulattica by Rita Dove, film script by Rita Dove, directed by Tristan Cook, camera Zac Nicholson.
  • PBS’s American Forum: “Why Presidents Need Poetry.” Interview, “A Conversation with U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove,” by Douglas Blackmon, Director of Public Programs, UVA’s Miller Center. Filmed in a public program at Miller Center, February 2, 2018. P
  • Audio conversation with David Kampa of the NEA and Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate 2017–2019. Conversation recorded for the online edition of the National Endowment for the Arts magazine focusing on women in the arts and featuring conversations between older and younger women artists who practice in the same field. Recorded at Virginia Humanities, February 7, 2018.
  • Bio-documentary of Rita Dove’s life, by internationally recognized Argentinian writer and filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley in Heritage Film Project’s series of biographies on UVA professors, including Dr. Jared Loewenstein’s encounter with Jorge Luis Borges at the Colonnade Club in 1967, and Julian Bond. Filming in September 2012 and Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2013, for premiere at the Virginia Film Festival, November 2013.
  • "Sonata Mulattica," historical documentary film adaptation of Dove's book will contrast the life of biracial 19th-century violin virtuoso George Bridgetower with the story of young African-American contemporary musician Joshua Coyne. Production by Spark Media, Washington, DC, 2011-present (in process).
  • "Rita Dove: Poet," interview by Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers & Company, American Public Television, February 2012.
  • "In Anthology, Rita Dove Connects American Poets' Intergenerational Conversations," interview by Jeffrey Brown, The PBS Newshour, December 2011.
  • "Singin' Sepia: Five Songs on Poems by Rita Dove"; music by Tania Leon, performed by Continuum, Bridge Records, 2008.
  • "Making History: A Conversation with Rita Dove and John Hope Franklin", filmed during the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 22, 2006, broadcast on C-SPAN.
  • Poetry Speaks to Children, Sourcebooks, includes CD with poems read by the poets, 2005.
  • Radio show "Poetica", reading of selected poems, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006.
  • Interview with John Birge and reading of several poems on radio show "Giving Thanks", broadcast on National Public Radio, Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005.
  • "Claudette Colvin Goes to Work" (song lyrics based on the poem, in collaboration with John McCutcheon). Sung by John McCutcheon on his CD Mightier Than the Sword, Appalsongs, 2006.
  • Interview in Discovery Channel series Language Arts at Work, 2005.
  • "East of the Blue Ridge", WCVT, March 3, 2000.
  • "The Unfinished Journey", collaboration with John Williams, Steven Spielberg, et al., America's Millennium, CBS, Dec. 31, 1999.
  • "Boston Pops," with John Williams, Rita Dove, Joshua Bell, Cynthia Haymon and the Boston Pops, filmed at the University of Virginia, Monticello and Boston Symphony Hall, PBS, July 27, 1998.
  • Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," May 1994, Nov. 1994, Feb. 1998.
  • "In the Prime," PBS, 1997.
  • "Virginia Writers of Distinction: Rita Dove." Virginia Center for the Book, 1997.
  • Segments for "Virginia Currents," WHTJ, 1995 & 1997.
  • Interviews on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, Channel One, 1997.
  • "Sesame Street," segment with Big Bird, PBS, 1995.
  • "Bill Moyers' Journal: Poet Laureate Rita Dove," PBS, 1994.
  • "Shine Up Your Words: A Morning with Rita Dove," Virginia Center for the Book, 1994.
  • "Who's Afraid of Poetry?" (National Press Club), C-Span and NPR, 1994.
  • "A Conversation with Poet Laureate Rita Dove," Library of Congress, 1993.

Current Positions

  • Vice President for Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Juror, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, 1991 - present
  • Member, American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel
  • Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • Member, American Philosophical Society
  • Member, Fellowship of Southern Writers
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Member, Poetry and New Media Working Group, Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, The Poetry Foundation
  • Advisory Board, The MacDowell Colony
  • Advisory Board, Du Bois Center of American History & Culture, 2005 -
  • Advisory Board, The Givens Foundation for African American Literature
  • Board of Directors, Poetry Daily
  • Member, American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel
  • Advisory Board and Awards Jury, Student Achievement & Advocacy Services, 2002 -
  • Advisory Board, Thomas Jefferson Center for Freedom of Expression
  • Advisory Board, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
  • Advisory Board, Live Arts, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Board of Directors, USA Dance-Charlottesville chapter
  • Fellow, Shannon Center for Advanced Studies, University of Virginia
  • Contributing Editor, Meridian
  • Advisory Editor or Board – Bellingham Review, Callaloo, The Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Hunger Mountain, International Quarterly, Ploughshares, Mid-American Review, Poetry International, TriQuarterly


  • Thomas Robinson Prize for Southern Literature, Mercer University, February 2024
  • Leadership Award, Academy of American Poets, January 2024
  • Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, The National Book Book Foundation, November 2023
  • Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, Library of Congress, 2022
  • Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, The Poetry Foundation, 2022
  • Gold Medal, American Academy of Arts & Letters, March 2021.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, LA Review of Books/University of California (Riverside), February 2021.
  • Named Trailblazer, U.S. State Department, February 11, 2021
  • Langston Hughes Medal, Langston Hughes Festival of the City College of New York, November 2019.
  • North Star Award, Hurston/Wright Foundation, October 2019.
  • Wallace Stevens Award, Academy of American Poets, 2019
  • Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, 2018
  • Cleveland Arts Prize for Lifetime Achievement, 2018
  • Alice Dunbar Nelson Award for Literary Achievements, the Great Lakes Black Authors Expo and Writers Conference, Cleveland, OH, 2018
  • Virginia Commission for the Arts “50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Award” recipient for Literary Arts, 2018
  • NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Collected Poems: 1974–2004, 2017
  • Harold Washington Literary Award, 2017
  • U.S. Presidential Scholars Award, Presidential Scholars Foundation, 2017
  • Stone Award for Lifetime Achievement, Oregon State University, 2016
  • Poetry and People International Prize, Guangdong, China, 2015
  • Furious Flower Lifetime Achievement Award, James Madison University, 2014
  • Carole Weinstein Prize of the Library of Virginia, 2014
  • Busboys and Poets Award, Fall for the Book Festival, held at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 2012
  • Women of Achievement Award, American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Virginia, 2012
  • National Medal of Arts (2011), The White House & National Endowment for the Arts, 2012
  • Chancellor, Academy of American Poets, 2005-2012
  • Induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, May 18, 2011
  • Guest Speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama's Poetry Student Workshop at the White House, The White House, Washington, DC, May 11, 2011
  • Juror, Jackson Poetry Prize, Poets & Writers, 2010-2011
  • 2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Winner
  • Ohioana Book Award in poetry for Sonata Mulattica, 2010
  • Ambassador Award Winner (for lifetime achievement), Oklahoma Celebration of Books, Oklahoma Center for Poets & Writers, 2010
  • 2009 International Capri Award - "l'isola della poesia", Capri, Italy, 2009
  • Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, 2009
  • Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008
  • Chubb Fellow, Yale University, Fall 2007
  • Stellfox Prize, Dickinson College, 2006
  • Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service, Wilmington, DE, 2006
  • American Smooth selected as one of the New York Times' "100 Notable Books of 2004" American Smooth selected as one of the New York Public Library's "Books to Remember from 2004"
  • Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2004-2006
  • Emily Couric Leadership Award, 2003
  • Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001
  • Commencement Speaker, Mary Baldwin College, 2001
  • Margaret Raynal Virginia Writer of Distinction, Randolph-Macon Woman's College, 2001
  • New York Public Library "Library Lion" medal, 2000
  • Ohioana Book Award in poetry for On the Bus with Rosa Parks, 2000
  • Special Consultant in Poetry, Library of Congress, 1999-2000
  • John Frederick Nims Translation Prize, together with Fred Viebahn, 1999
  • Levinson Prize, Poetry Magazine, 1998
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Lecturer, Southwest Texas State University, 1998
  • Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, 1997
  • Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, 1997
  • Chair, Poetry Jury, The 1997 Pulitzer Prizes
  • Featured author on Ugandan postage stamp, Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, 1997
  • National Association of Women in Education (NAWE) Distinguished Woman Award, 1977
  • Charles Frankel Prize (National Humanities Medal), The White House & National Endowment for the Humanities, 1996
  • Heinz Award in the Arts, 1996
  • Host (with Jimmy Carter), gathering of Nobel Laureates in Literature, Cultural Olympiad, Atlanta 1995
  • Fund for New American Plays Award, The Kennedy Center, 1995
  • Renaissance Forum Award, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1994
  • Distinguished Achievement Medal, Miami University Alumni Association, 1994
  • Golden Plate Awards Council, American Academy of Achievement, 1994-2001
  • Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement, 1994
  • Phi Beta Kappa Senator, 1994-2000
  • Ohioana Book Award in poetry for Selected Poems, 1994
  • Carl Sandburg Award, International Platform Association, 1994
  • NAACP Great American Artist Award, 1993
  • Woman of the Year Award, Glamour Magazine, 1993
  • Virginia College Stores Association Book Award for Through the Ivory Gate, 1993
  • Phi Beta Kappa poet, Harvard University, 1993
  • U.S. Poet Laureate/Consultant in Poetry, Library of Congress (1993-1995)
  • Literary Lion, New York Public Library, 1991
  • Ohioana Book Award in poetry for Grace Notes, 1990
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies, University of Virginia, 1989-1992
  • Mellon Fellow, National Humanities Center, North Carolina, 1988-1989
  • Bellagio Residency, The Rockefeller Foundation, 1988
  • Ohio Governor's Award, 1988
  • General Electric Foundation Award, 1987
  • Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 1987
  • President, Associate Writing Programs, 1986-1987
  • Lavan Younger Poet Award, The Academy of American Poets, 1986 (chosen by Robert Penn Warren)
  • Callaloo Award, 1986
  • Chair, poetry grants panel, National Endowment for the Arts, 1985
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1983-1984
  • Portia Pittman Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, Tuskegee Institute, 1982
  • International Working Period for Authors Fellow, North-Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Culture and Universität Bielefeld, 1980
  • Ohio Arts Council grant, 1979
  • National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, 1978, 1989
  • Fulbright Scholar, Universität Tübingen, 1974-1975
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1973
  • Phi Kappa Phi, 1973
  • National Achievement Scholar, 1970-1973
  • Presidential Scholar, The White House, Washington, D.C., 1970

Major Scholarly Publications About Rita Dove's Work

  • Lehka Roy, ed. Shirley R. Steinberg, Towards Post-Blackness: A Critical Study of Rita Dove’s Poetry. Peter Lang, 2023.
  • J.M. Saboo, Rita Dove: A Thematic Study of Her Poems. Chinmay Prakashan Publishers, 2014.
  • Rita Dove: American Poet, featured issue of Callaloo 31, no. 3 (2008). Includes poems from Sonata Mulattica, essays, interviews, translations, and photographs.
  • Pat Righelato, Understanding Rita Dove. University of South Carolina Press, July 2006.
  • Malin Pereira, Rita Dove's Cosmopolitanism. University of Illinois Press, 2003.
  • Earl G. Ingersoll, Conversations with Rita Dove. University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
  • Therese Steffen, Crossing Color-Transcultural Space and Place in Rita Dove's Poetry, Fiction, and Drama. Oxford University Press, 2001.

More information is available at Rita Dove's home page: https://uva.theopenscholar.com/rita-dove