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Poets on Craft: Writing “The Life of…” with Rita Dove and Janice N. Harrington

October 28, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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In this intimate meeting-of-the-minds, hear two exceptional poets, Rita Dove and Janice N. Harrington, give insight into writing poetry that envisions the lives of prominent Black artists. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove will read from Sonata Mulattica (W. W. Norton, 2010), her tribute to 19th century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower, and Janice N. Harrington will read from Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin (BOA Editions, 2016)Cave Canem fellow, poet and essayist Natasha Oladokun moderates.

This event is presented in partnership with The New School Creative Writing Program and will be broadcasted via Zoom. Register here.


Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she attended Miami University of Ohio, Universität Tübingen in Germany and the University of Iowa. In 1987 she received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and from 1993-1995 she served as U.S. Poet Laureate. Author of a novel, a short story collection, a book of essays, and nine volumes of poetry—most recently Sonata Mulattica, her poetic tribute to 19th century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower (2010 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award) and Collected Poems 1974-2004 (2016 NAACP Image Award). She also edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011) and, in 2018/19, a weekly poetry column for The New York Times Magazine. Her song cycle Seven for Luck, with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony, and her play The Darker Face of the Earth had successful runs at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues. A new song cycle, Standing Witness, with music by Richard Danielpour, will premiere at Tanglewood in the summer of 2021.

Rita Dove’s numerous honors include the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and in 2011 the National Medal of Arts from President Obama—the only poet ever to receive both medals—as well as the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Library of Virginia and the Fulbright Commission, and 28 honorary doctorates. She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and as chancellor of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. An elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where she has taught since 1989.


Janice N. Harrington’s writing reflects her beginnings in rural Alabama, her life in the Midwest, and her interests in cultural history, the natural world, and the visual arts. Harrington’s latest book of poetry is Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin (BOA Editions). She is also the author of two earlier books of poetry, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and The Hands of Strangers, as well as the author of award-winning children’s books. A Cave Canem Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, Harrington has published poems in Callaloo, crazyhorse, FIELD, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and many other literary journals. Her writings have also appeared in such anthologies as the Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Oxford University Press) and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Natasha Oladokun is a poet and essayist. She holds fellowships from Cave Canem, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the inaugural First Wave Poetry Fellow. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry ReviewHarvard Review OnlinePleiades, Kenyon Review Online, Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is Associate Poetry Editor at storySouth, and currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is working on her first collection of poetry.


October 28, 2020
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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