Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of a research chemist. She was educated at Buchtel High School as a presidential scholar and at Miami University, graduating summa cum laude in 1973. She went on to the University of Tubingen in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1989 she taught creative writing at Arizona State University and it was while she was there that she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Thomas and Beulah, a verse novel based on the lives of her maternal grandparents.
After leaving Arizona State University she became Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and in 1992 was named United States poet laureate by the Librarian of Congress, the youngest person to receive this honour and the first African American to do so. She held the post of chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012 and from 2018 to 2019 was the poetry editor of the New York Times magazine. She has received numerous honorary doctorates and in 2004 created the annual Rita Dove Poetry Award.
Rita Dove is a prolific poet, having published ten volumes of poetry during her career, her Collected Poems 1974- 2004, published in 2016 containing many of them. She has also written a collection of essays entitled The Poet’s World, a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday, a play, The Darker Face of the Earth and a novel, Through the Ivory Gate. Rita’s poetry covers a wide range of themes and is written in a unique, original style, using unusual, powerful combinations of words and images to create cryptic messages for the reader to unravel. Her multi-layered poems dramatise the stories of individuals both living and dead against the backdrop of a larger historical canvas.