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Rita Dove Named One Of Time Magazine’s “Firsts”

Rita Dove, pictured here as the poet laureate in 1993

The September 18 double-issue of Time Magazine profiles 46 living women pioneers – among them Rita Dove, the former U.S. poet laureate and current Anisfield-Wolf Award juror.

The list brims with astronauts and actresses, athletes and ambassadors, and a Nobel laureate in molecular biology. The only person to make the cut as a writer is Dove. Drawing from her years growing up in Akron, Ohio, she transformed American letters with Thomas and Beulah, her groundbreaking poetry collection inspired by her grandparents.

Dove mentions this book in the first sentence of her Time Magazine essay, which appears under the headline “Raising hackles means you are not being ignored.”

In the last paragraph, Dove, 65, writes, “Although I am not a confrontational person by nature, racism and sexism are still very much alive, and whenever I encounter prejudice, I tackle the issues and move on, refusing to be sidetracked by hate or bitterness. When I was a young poet, my work was considered ‘slight’ by some male critics. The sexist tone was undeniable, although difficult to corroborate.”

Brazilian photographer Luisa Dorr photographed the pioneers on her iPhone, positioning Dove outdoors, framed by what appears to be a tree in winter. Time Magazine editor Nancy Gibbs writes of the cohort, “Some striking themes
emerged – the importance of joy, the fierce motivational force of failure, the satisfaction of successes both achieved and shared.”

Dove shared a variety of that satisfaction of success in Cleveland September 7 during the 82nd Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, where she helped honor the newest honorees. She remains masterful in cultivating young writers, both as a juror and as the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

“Whatever I pursue – writing poetry or teaching or speaking in public – I want to be excited by the challenge,” Dove states, “curious about where life might next lead me.”

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