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Rita Dove Biography

(1952– ), Thomas and Beulah: Poems, Thomas and Beulah, Ten Poems

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American poet, born in Akron, Ohio, educated at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the University of Tübingen in Germany, and the University of Iowa where she studied at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. A professor of English at Arizona State University, Rita Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987 for her volume Thomas and Beulah: Poems (1986), an extended sequence of poems describing the lives of her grandparents. At 34 she was one of the youngest ever recipients of the prize and only the second African-American writer to win it. Her verse is characterized by both its lyric and narrative qualities, the latter being particularly evident in Thomas and Beulah which recounts the story of a black couple's life in the industrial Midwest in the first half of the twentieth century; the volume addresses one of Dove's persistent themes, that of displacement, or what Dove herself refers to as the sense of living in ‘two different worlds, seeing things with double vision’. Her single most well-known poem, arguably, is ‘Parsley’ which is based on a massacre perpetrated by Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in 1957. Her other volumes of verse include Ten Poems (1977), The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Grace Notes (1991), and Selected Poems (1993). Fifth Sunday: Stories appeared in 1985 and was reprinted in 1990, while Through the Ivory Gate (1992) is a novel and The Darker Face of the Earth (1994) a play in verse. Rita Dove was named US poet laureate for the year 19934. Two valuable interviews with Dove in which she discusses her work are to be found in Black American Literature Forum (Fall 1986) and Gargoyle (1985).

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