width=61 height=87> Rita Dove
Featured Poet


Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. She received a B.A. from Miami University and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Her books of poetry include American Smooth (W. W. Norton, 2004); On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Selected Poems (1993); and Thomas and Beulah (1986), winner of the Pulitzer Prize. She has also published short stories, a novel, and a verse drama and edited The Best American Poetry 2000. Dove's honors include the Heinz Award, a National Humanities Medal, an NAACP Great American Artist award, the Common Wealth Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dove served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995. From 1994 to 2000, she served as a senator for Phi Beta Kappa; in 2006 she was elected a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rita Dove is well known for her efforts in promoting the arts through all mediums and for her wish to see poetry as a "household word." A sample of this brilliant poet's work follows. You can learn more about Ms. Dove and view her extensive bibliography by following the links provided at the end of this page.

Straw Hat

In the city, under the saw-toothed leaves of an oak
overlooking the tracks, he sits out
the last minutes before dawn, lucky
to sleep third shift. Years before
he was anything, he lay on
so many kinds of grass, under stars,
the moon's bald eye opposing.

He used to sleep like a glass of water
held up in the hand of a very young girl.
Then he learned he wasn't perfect, that
no one was perfect. So he made his way
North under the bland roof of a tent
too small for even his lean body.

The mattress ticking he shares in the work barracks
is brown and smells
from the sweat of two other men.
One of them chews snuff:
he's never met either.
To him, work is a narrow grief
and the music afterwards
is like a woman
reaching into his chest
to spread it around. When he sings
he closes his eyes.
He never knows when she'll be coming
but when she leaves, he always
tips his hat.

Copyright © 1986 Rita Dove

From Thomas and Beulah
Carnegie-Mellon University Press

Reproduced by permission of author






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