Akron's Rita Dove on Poetry and Politics

Rita Dove
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If you like the idea of a little poetry with your news Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove has you covered.

The Akron-born poet is currently the poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine. 

Back in the 90s Dove was the first African-American to be named United State Poet Laureate.

Next weekend she is honored with the lifetime achievement award for the Cleveland Arts Prize. 

On her job as poetry editor for New York Times Magazine

"When we pick up a magazine, particularly like a Sunday magazine that comes out of a newspaper, the rest of our life is still swirling around us.  We're looking for a distraction or you know to be informed about something, and it's a markedly different attitude than if you're going to pick up a book of poems or short stories and say, 'Now I'm going to relax.'  So my feeling is that you want to be able to offer, I want to be able to offer, a moment when someone can actually get sucked into a monent of repose and be taken out of their everyday trot and the international swirl of events and simply relax for a moment into what it is like to be human."

On the #MeToo Movement's impact on poetry today

"It's a two pronged affair.  I think the idea of representing, in terms of gender, is something that's been a concern in poetry and literary circles for quite a while.  Mainly because if you're going to be evoking an intimate relationship between the text and the reader then obviously one half of the population wants to see that they can be, you know, pulled in.  Also to be able to understand the opposite gender.  So that's really important.  But also I feel the #MeToo Movement and in general I think the youth are realizing poetry does have a role in energizing us as citizens, that the individual does have some impact on the larger sphere as long as we can communicate with one another."

On the relation between poetry and politics

"The word politics, it comes from polis, it comes from people in the end.  Yet we tend to think the arts are somehow separate from the life we have to live.  That kind of separation also means that people will tend to think that, 'Oh, the arts are peripheral or not important.'  To me that's where it all begins.  It begins with that heart to heart communication."

On winning the Cleveland Arts Prize Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature

"I feel like saying, 'No do not close the lid yet!' (laughs) But on the other hand, it's a fantastic honor, particularly coming from my home state and my home area.  You know, I just feel like to be recognized by the people who  ou grew up with and emulated and loved...you want to please them.  To have that happen is the best kind of award there is."

Listen to Rita Dove read her poem "Testimonial"


The 2018 Cleveland Arts Prize ceremony takes place Sunday, October 21 at The Cleveland Museum of Art


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