Rita Dove

Cindy Seip

Rita Dove is a Pulitzer Prize winner, former U.S. poet laureate, and the only poet honored with both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. In 2021 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her works include Sonata Mulattica: Poems and Collected Poems: 1974-2004, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award. In Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems (W. W. Norton & Company), her first volume of new works in 12 years, Dove investigates the wavering moral compass guiding America’s and the world’s experiments in democracy. She depicts the first Jewish ghetto in 16th-century Venice, the efforts of Black Lives Matter, a girls’ night clubbing in the shadow of World War II, and the doomed nobility of Muhammad Ali’s conscious objector stance. Musical in its forms, Playlist collects various voices: an elevator operator simmers with resentment, an octogenarian dances an exuberant mambo, a spring cricket philosophizes with mordant humor on hip-hop, critics, and Valentine’s Day. And calamity turns personal in the closing “Little Book of Woe,” which charts a journey from terror to hope as Dove learns to cope with debilitating chronic illness. At turns audaciously playful and grave, alternating poignant meditations on mortality and acerbic observations of injustice, Playlist is the poet speaking truth to power.