I was not interested in doing the plot of Oedipus in blackface. I did wonder, what would these people have been like if they hadn't been in that situation?... One could look at Oedipus, or at my character Augustus, as a cynical schemer who did everything because he was hungry for power. But that's just too easy. I'm more interested in how humans can embody conflicting goals and emotions.

Rita Dove

If our children are unable to voice what they mean, no one will know how they feel. If they can’t imagine a different world, they are stumbling through a darkness made all the more sinister by its lack of reference points. For a young person growing up in America’s alienated neighborhoods, there can be no greater empowerment than to dare to speak from the heart — and then to discover that one is not alone in ones feelings.

Rita Dove

Instead of trying to come up and pontificate on what literature is, you need to talk with children, to teachers, and make sure they get poetry in the curriculum early.

Rita Dove

I think that when a poem can move readers across generations and across its specific class or race then it becomes truly classic.

Rita Dove

I wish someone had told me that my stories are really mine to tell. In other words, anything that I think is important or that has moved me has the ability to move somebody else.

Rita Dove

Have you ever heard a good joke? If you've ever heard someone just right, with the right pacing, then you're already on the way to poetry. It's about using words in very precise ways and using gesture.

Rita Dove

My inspiration comes from everywhere, just walking down the street and I never know where it's going to come from, so I keep a notebook with me at all times and the only criteria for anything making it into that notebook is if it stops me in my tracks for even an instant, if it catches my eye or my ear and I just write it down.

Rita Dove

For years, I had heard about the lack of interest in literature in the U.S. and I had complained about the lack of respect artists got here. In my heart, I failed to understand how people could fail to be moved by art.

Rita Dove

My first advice would be to read, read, read, which sounds interesting coming in a digital age, but it's so much easier to listen to a poem than it is to sit down and actually read it and to hear it in your head and that is something that every poet or aspiring poet needs to be able to do, I think to hear it in their head.

Rita Dove

All of us have moments in our childhood where we come alive for the first time. And we go back to those moments and think, This is when I became myself.

Rita Dove

I was pirouette and flourish, I was filigree and flame. How could I count my blessings when I didn't know their names?

Rita Dove

Anyone can tell you that how you're raised as a child has a great deal to do with how you behave as an adult and whether you have complexes or whether you need to prove yourself or all that kind of stuff and yet the mother in a traditional family who has raised a child never makes it in the history books.

Rita Dove

I think if you put something in a file that says "war poems" or "love poems" that you already restrict the way in which the poem might move.

Rita Dove

As an African-American, as a woman I think that I've been sensitized to the way in which history privileges the white male and the way in which certain aspects of history, the things that we are taught in school, the things that are handed down never, never entered the picture though they might have been very important.

Rita Dove

To me, a poem is almost like someone whispering to another person, or you hear the whispering in your head. I hope with my own poems that the reader feels a connection, soul to soul, that'll help us all feel a little less alone on the planet. And it does have the power to direct change. A writer can make the word 'dark' be something positive. You can relieve a word like 'hysterical' of its misogynistic implications. You can make the language your own. That's what poetry is about.

Rita Dove

It makes me furious to hear haters of all skin colors - especially Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalists - deride other people because of their different beliefs and lifestyles.

Rita Dove

In working on a poem, I love to revise. Lots of younger poets don't enjoy this, but in the process of revision I discover things

Rita Dove

Being Poet Laureate made me realize I was capable of a larger voice. There is a more public utterance I can make as a poet.

Rita Dove

I never think of my audience when I write a poem. I try to write out of whatever is haunting me; in order for a poem to feel authentic, I have to feel I'm treading on very dangerous ground, which can mean that the resulting revelations may prove hurtful to other people. The time for thinking about that kind of guilt or any collective sense of responsibility, however, occurs much later in the creative process, after the poem is finished.

Rita Dove

I see a resurgence of interest in poetry. I am less optimistic about the prospects for the arts when it comes to federal funding.

Rita Dove

We tend to be so bombarded with information, and we move so quickly, that there's a tendency to treat everything on the surface level and process things quickly. This is antithetical to the kind of openness and perception you have to have to be receptive to poetry.poetry seems to exist in a parallel universe outside daily life in America.

Rita Dove

The American Dream is a phrase we'll have to wrestle with all of our lives. It means a lot of things to different people. I think we're redefining it now

Rita Dove