October 6, 2004
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
8:00 p.m. Reading
Both in Recital Hall, PAC
UAlbany, Uptown Campus
Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995, the youngest poet and first African American to be so honored. In 1999, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington appointed Dove a Special Consultant in Poetry (along with fellow poets W. S. Merwin and Louise Glück), to assist with the celebration of the Library of Congress's Bicentennial Year.
Dove's best-known works include "Thomas and Beulah" (1986), which received the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and "On the Bus with Rosa Parks" (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Dove's newest collection, her first in five years, is "American Smooth" (Sept 2004), a portrait of American and African-American culture in all of its grandeur and diversity.
"Thomas and Beulah" is a collection of poems loosely based on the lives of Dove's maternal grandparents. Forming two narrative sequences, representing two points of view, the poems recount the youth, courtship, marriage, and death of two remarkable and complex, yet ordinary, individuals. The "New York Review of Books" called "Thomas and Beulah," "A remarkable book…," and said that, "Dove has planed away unnecessary matter: pure shapes, her poems exhibit the thrift that Yeats called the sign of a perfected manner."
The poems in "On the Bus with Rosa Parks" explore the fates of individuals as they intersect with the grand arc of history, and particularly the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The "New York Times" named the collection a Notable Book of the Year in 1999, observing that, "In her meditations on Rosa Parks and other civil rights veterans, the poet's eye and voice, trained for the nearly invisible detail, rescue characters from obscurity by illuminating their ordinariness."
Other poetry collections include "Mother Love" (1995), "Selected Poems" (1993), "Grace Notes" (1989), "Museum" (1983), and "The Yellow House on the Corner" (1980). She is also the author of the short story collection, "Fifth Sunday" (1985), the novel, "Through the Ivory Gates" (1992), and the play, "The Darker Face of the Earth" (1996), which enjoyed a four-week run at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, and went on to be performed at the Royal National Theatre in London. Dove also edited "The Best American Poetry 2000" and, from January 2000-2002, wrote a weekly column, "Poet's Choice," for "The Washington Post."
A member of the American Society of Composers, Dove is the author of song lyrics for several musical works, including the song cycle "Seven for Luck" (1998, music by John Williams), which premiered at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and "Grace Notes" (1997, music by Bruce Adolpe), which premiered at Lincoln Center.
Among her many prizes Dove has received the Lavan Younger Poets Award of the Academy of American Poets, the NAACP Great American Artist Award, the Charles Frankel Prize/National Humanities Medal, the Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Literary Lion medal of the New York Public Library. In 1993, she was named one of ten "Outstanding Women of the Year" by "Glamour" magazine.
Rita Dove currently serves as chairperson and Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.