Burden Reading 2006

Black and gold graphic bar
  Feb. 6, 2006

Margie Yu
Public Affairs Specialist 
(323) 343-3047



Cal State L.A. 
Office of Public Affairs 
(323) 343-3050 
Fax: (323) 343-6405

For immediate release:
Poet Laureate/Pulitzer Prize-winner
Rita Dove to Read at
Cal State L.A.’s Poetry Series
on Thursday, March 2

The English Department and the College of Arts and Letters at Cal State L.A. present the 21st Annual Jean Burden Poetry Reading featuring Rita Dove, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the first African-American Poet Laureate of the United States, on Thursday, March 2, 6:30 p.m., at Cal State L.A.’s Golden Eagle Ballroom. (The reading and reception are free and open to the public, in keeping with the mission of the Jean Burden series.)

In 1993, Rita Dove was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, making her the youngest person—and the first African-American—to receive this highest official honor in American letters. In 1999, she was reappointed Special Consultant in Poetry for 1999-2000, the Library of Congress’ bicentennial year, and in 2004 Virginia Governor Mark Warner appointed her as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Appearances in magazines and anthologies had already won national acclaim for Rita Dove when she published her first poetry collection, The Yellow House on the Corner, with Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1980. It was followed by Museum and Thomas and Beulah, both also from Carnegie-Mellon. Thomas and Beulah, a collection of interrelated poems loosely based on her grandparents’ life, earned her the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, making her the second African American poet (after Gwendolyn Brooks in 1950) to receive this prestigious award.

Other publications by Rita Dove include a book of short stories Fifth Sunday (Callaloo Fiction Series), the poetry collections Grace Notes, Selected Poems, Mother Love and On the Bus with Rosa Parks, the novel Through the Ivory Gate, the verse drama The Darker Face of the Earth, and a book of her laureate lectures, The Poet’s World (The Library of Congress). Her latest poetry book, American Smooth, was published by W. W. Norton in September 2004.

Dove’s poetry has earned her fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Humanities Center, among other honors. She was granted a Portia Pittman Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities as writer-in-residence at Tuskegee Institute in 1982, was chosen by Robert Penn Warren—then the first U.S. Poet Laureate—for the 1986 Lavan Younger Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets, received the 1987 General Electric Foundation Award, the 1988 Ohio Governor’s Award in the Arts, “Literary Lion” medals from the New York Public Library in 1990 and 1996 as well as its “Library Lion” medal in 2000, 21 honorary doctorates, and more.

Dove has read her poetry at a White House state dinner, was featured on CNN, on NBC’s Today Show, in a Bill Moyer’s Journal primetime special on PBS dedicated to her and her work and, also on PBS, on the McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, the Charlie Rose Show, and Dennis Wholey’s This is America. She produced, in collaboration with the Library of Virginia, Shine Up Your Words: A Morning with Rita Dove, a nationally televised one-hour television show with elementary school children about poetry, narrated an NPR program on Billie Holiday and the three-part PBS documentary on Southern literature, Tell About the South, filmed a segment with Big Bird for Sesame Street, and appeared repeatedly on Garrison Keillor’s public radio program A Prairie Home Companion. Dove provided the texts for musical works by composers Tania León (premiered at Merkin Concert Hall, New York, 1996), Bruce Adolphe (first performed at Lincoln Center, New York, 1997), and Alvin Singleton (symphonic work for the opening weekend of the Centennial Olympic Summer Games, Atlanta, 1996), among others.

Dove is a member of PEN American Center and the American Philosophical Society, among other literary and cultural organizations. She is advisory editor to the literary periodicals Callaloo, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Mid-American Review, and TriQuarterly (among others), has been a Poets’ Corner Elector at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York, and she sits on the advisory boards of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Freedom of Expression and of the non-profit organization Student Achievement & Advocacy Services. She has chaired the National Endowment for the Arts poetry panels and the Pulitzer Prize jury in poetry, and she edited the anthology Best American Poetry 2000. From January 2000 to January 2002, she wrote a weekly column, “The Poet’s Choice,” for The Washington Post.

Rita Dove graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1973, with two semesters as a Fulbright scholar at Universität Tübingen in Germany. She joined the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts in 1977.

Dove, who taught creative writing at Arizona State University from 1981 to 1989, now holds the chair as Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the viola da gamba, a 17th century string instrument related to the cello, her classical voice training and ballroom dancing.

Jean Burden Annual Poetry Series
The annual poetry readings were established at Cal State L.A. in 1986 to honor Altadenan Jean Burden for her influence as a poet, essayist, anthologist, teacher and editor, and for her long-standing support of poetry on the Cal State L.A. campus. In addition to poetry, Burden has published a book of essays, Journey Toward Poetry, and articles and books on topics ranging from animal welfare to Oriental religion. Burden was also poetry editor of Yankee magazine for more than 40 years. Last year’s Virginia E. Smith bequest of over $660,000 expands the Jean Burden Annual Poetry Series and increases access to living poets and their works by students, faculty and staff in the Los Angeles area communities.

This increasingly popular event features an annual reading by a major or emerging poet. Noted poets, Pulitzer Prize winners and U.S. Poets Laureate have been guest readers since the inception of this series at Cal State L.A., including Anthony Hecht, Maxine Kumin, Mary Oliver, Harryette Mullen, Lucille Clifton, Galway Kinnell, Carolyn Kizer, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Richard Wilbur, Linda Pastan, and Mark Strand.

The University is located at the Eastern Avenue exit, San Bernardino Freeway, at the interchange of the 10 and 710 Freeways. Public (permit dispensers) parking is available on the top level of Parking Structure 2. Cost is $.50 per hour for parking. For more on the poetry reading, call Lauri Ramey, Cal State L.A. English Department, at (323) 343-4165.

Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 185,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds--reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Among programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, to be housed in the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab now under construction. www.calstatela.edu

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