Former United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Rita Dove will deliver the keynote address at the University’s 168th commencement ceremony Monday, May 13. She also will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.
Dove is currently the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995, and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. A major figure in American and African American literature, Dove is known for her interdisciplinary approach and her collaborative ventures with composers, musicians and other artists.
Here’s a great little snippet from a discussion Ms. Dove participated in back in 2011 ruminating on the purpose and pleasure of line breaks in a poem…
The one thing that I find that poetry does that no other written art form can really do is that it can use the visual and use the oral to orchestrate our breathing, so that it becomes an extremely physical act to read a poem: aloud or to yourself, if you’re really into it.
Sharon mentioned the turning of the line—every time you hit that white space with the tendrils—you know you’re going to go back, and you take a little breath, or you try to catch one, because you don’t know what’s coming.
Every time you go back, it’s with a sense of relief, snapping back, but knowing that you’re going to out there into the abyss. So there’s that oral sense, but there’s also: How long can you hold your breath? How long can you breathe?