Biography — Literary Criticism In 1993, Rita Dove (b. 1952) became the nation's youngest and first female African American Poet Laureate. This collection of interviews offers a fascinating portrait of her.
Having published over a half-dozen collections of poetry, Dove won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for "Thomas and Beulah." In addition, she has published a novel, "Through the Ivory Gate," and her play, "The Darker Face of Earth," has been produced on several stages.
Unlike many other writers, Rita Dove has no objection to being interviewed, in part because she enjoys reading interviews. Toni Morrison's, for instance, gave Dove her inspiration as a beginning writer.
In these conversations that range over a decade and a half, she reveals an extraordinary dedication to preserving the integrity of her art, particularly as others intrude upon her to crusade on behalf of racial and gender issues.
Although she regards herself as a feminist and expresses pride in her African American heritage, she leaves crusading outside the door as she enters the writer's workroom. Once inside, she focuses on making each poem stand up to her own exceptionally rigorous standards.
In these conversations the reader meets also the Rita Dove who lives outside the poet's workroom. In addition to writing, she plays the viola de gamba, is addicted to crossword puzzles, and has taken lessons in singing and in ballroom dancing. In response to "What kind of questions are you not asked in interviews that you would like to answer?" she bravely and surprisingly replies, "Personal questions."
Earl G. Ingersoll is distinguished teaching professor of English emeritus at SUNY College at Brockport. His previous books include "Conversations with May Sarton" (University Press of Mississippi), "The Post-Confessionals: Conversations with American Poets of the Eighties" (with Judith Kitchen and Stan Sanvel Rubin), and "Doris Lessing: Conversations," among others.
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