Quote of the Week | Rita Dove

The New York Times Magazine recently named Rita Dove as its new poetry editor, succeeding current poetry editor Terrance Hayes in July 2018. Since editor Jake Silverstein created the poetry editor position in 2014, three poets have held the position with Dove coming in as the fourth.

Rita Dove speaking at George Mason University in 2012.

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio. Her parents encouraged her to read a lot and excel in school, which led her to becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the top 100 high school graduates in the country. This honor allowed her to continue her education at Miami University, the University of Tübengen, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned her MFA and met her husband, German writer Fred Viebahn

Dove’s literary debut was in 1980 when she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner. This collection of poetry received a lot of praise for combining history with individual details, creating “the distinctive style that Dove continues to develop” today. Her poetry is known for “its lyricism and beauty as well as its sense of history and political scope.” Throughout her career, Dove has published ten poetry collections, along with a short-story collection, a novel, a play, and an essay collection.

Still of Rita Dove in Rita Dove: An America Poet (2014).

Dove has won many literary honors, including a Pulitzer Prize, a National Humanities Medal, and a National Medal of Arts. In 1993, she was given the biggest honor when she was named the youngest U.S. Poet Laureate at 40 years old. This also made her the first African American to hold the position. As Poet Laureate, Dove made it a point to create a public interest in literary arts by traveling the country to read her poetry at schools, libraries, hospitals, and many other venues. She wanted everyone to know there is a purpose behind poetry other than just trying to figure out what it means.

"I think we're trying to understand poems in the wrong way. They are not mathematical equations. They're really more like life than they are like equations: They arrive. The meaning accrues. You read it, get something from it the first time, and read it again and get something more." – Rita Dove
Still of Rita Dove in Rita Dove: An America Poet (2014).

Coming in as The New York Times Magazine‘s new poetry editor, Dove hopes, by combining poetry with journalism, readers will begin to see “a kind of portrait or collage of American consciousness.” Like every poetry editor before her, Dove will remain at The New York Times Magazine for one year to provide a fresh take on poetry and how it can impact readers.

"Poetry may not change the world. But it can change a heart, and it can change a moment -- a heart in a moment." – Rita Dove

Below is an interview with Rita Dove discussing how language can create realities, something she hopes to bring to The New York Times Magazine.