“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”

–Rita Dove 

On August 28, 1952, African American poet Rita Dove was born in Akron, OH to Roy Dove, a research chemist at Goodyear, and Elvira Hord. Dove’s mother instilled a love of reading in Dove as a child. The youngest person to be appointed Poet Laureate, she was also the first African American Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1993–1995). Nine years later, Dove was again the Poet Laureate, this time of Virginia (2004 – 2006). She is also the second African American poet to receive the Pulitzer Prize.

Whether poetry or short stories or plays, her work reaches out beyond one era. Dove pushes what is considered contemporary literary norms, and write on a wide range of topics. Her poetic language is mesmerizing and challenges the distinctions between genres. Dove’s most notable work, Thomas and Beulah, was published by Carnegie Mellon Press in 1986. Her play, The Darker face of the Earth, was performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996, as well as at the Royal National Theatre in London in 1999.




Sonata Mulattica (2009)

American Smooth (2004)

On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999)

Mother Love (1995)

Selected Poems (1993)

Grace Notes (1989)

Thomas and Beulah (1986)

Museum (1983)

The Yellow House on the Corner (1980)



Fifth Sunday (1985)

Through the Ivory Gate (1992)

The Darker Face of the Earth (1994)


Audio Samples

How Does a Shadow Shine?

A selection of poetry



  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks: New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 1999; Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, 1999
  •  Thomas and Beulah: Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1986
  • Chubb Fellowship at Yale University, 2007
  • Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, 2009
  • National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, 2011



Chelsey Clammer
Chelsey Clammer is the author of the award-winning essay collection, Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). Her work has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, Hobart, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School and Black Warrior Review. She teaches online writing classes with WOW! Women On Writing and is a freelance editor. Her next collection of essays, Human Heartbeat Detected, is forthcoming (Fall 2022) from Red Hen Press.