Much-honored poet Rita Dove is newest MSU writer-in-residence

Contact: Karyn Brown

Rita Dove (Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A former U.S. poet laureate who also won a Pulitzer Prize and other major accolades will be at Mississippi State next week.

Rita Dove will be on campus Monday-Friday [Feb. 27-March 3] to lead the writer-in-residence program of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Institute for the Humanities. Her visit will include a number of activities with members of both the university and area communities.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday [March 1], the poet and essayist will read from her works during a free special presentation in McCool Hall’s Taylor Auditorium.

Poet laureate from 1993-95, Dove currently holds the rank of Commonwealth Professor in the University of Virginia’s English department. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Miami University of Ohio, with a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa.

“Thomas and Beulah,” Dove’s 1986 collection, won that year’s Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Her other major works in this genre include “On the Bus with Rosa Parks,” 1999; “American Smooth,” 2004; and “Sonata Mulattica,” 2009.

In 1985, she released a collection of short stories titled “Fifth Sunday” and, in 1992, a novel, “Through the Ivory Gate.”

When President Barack Obama presented the Akron, Ohio, native with a National Medal of Arts in 2011, she became the only poet to hold both that major recognition and a National Humanities Medal. She also has received 25 honorary doctorates, the most recent from Yale University in 2014.

In addition to the College of Arts and Sciences and its Institute for the Humanities, Dove’s MSU visit and related events are supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission and Mississippi Humanities Council.

William Anthony Hay, institute director, said Dove’s time on campus, like that of others preceding her, is designed to introduce new perspectives to MSU students and employees, along with interested community members.

“Our writer-in-residence program has been a great success that puts Mississippi State on the map for its engagement with the arts and humanities,” Hay said.

Catherine Pierce, MSU associate professor of English and creative writing program co-director, praised Dove as “one of the most significant American poets of the last 50 years.”

“Her work shines new light on subjects we thought we knew, and her poetic voice is unparalleled,” Pierce said. “It’s an honor to have her here in residence at MSU.”

For Dove’s complete biographical profile, see

More about her Starkville visit is found at or by contacting Hay at

The College of Arts and Sciences, MSU’s largest academic unit, is online at For other information, contact communication director Karyn Brown at 662-325-7952 or

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