Writing poetry with Rita Dove

Rita Dove is someone who is easy to listen to – but has the smarts to say interesting things with even simple language – she is a poet, former US Poet Laureate.

“Every time I sit down to write I try to feel that I’m starting over. It’s all new. It’s all fresh, and I’m learning as I go. I don’t want to do what I did before. I have to trust my inner artist who knows that there will always be sympathetic strings, and that I will pick up on them. I do know objectively that—even though I might feel terrified before a blank page every time—it’ll work out somehow. Maybe this poem won’t come off, but I don’t think of utter failure.”

VQR Magazine (A National Journal of Literature and Discussion), Winter 2016

In the following 33 minutes video, Rita is asked the questions many would love to ask if given time with her – beginning with questions for the aspiring writer, and developing into larger questions including the Big L word (literature).


Questions asked include:

Where does your inspiration come from?  (she keeps a notebook on her at all times to write things which catch her attention by sight or sound), Do you believe it takes a wealth of experience to write a poem?  Are we striving towards post racial literature and art?  What’s your process of turning historical moments into poetry?


If you, as I do, find her engaging and want to know more about her life/writing, I’d recommend the aforementioned magazine interview (which they kindly time as a 29 minute read – I love that helpfulness even as I ponder what speed of reader takes 29 minutes – someone who reads War and Peace every winter?  or is this based on someone who reads only occasionally?):



Or listen to her in action, reading her short poem responses to the picture series by Jacob Laurence “Migration Series”, as part of the group of poets’ responses reading at MOMA 2015 – which is referred to in the VQR magazine article.



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