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Rita Dove: American Poet

Updated: Sep 7, 2023


Photo by Fred Viebahn
Rita Dove and Montes-Bradley

A series of in-depth, on-camera interviews with Poet Laureate Rita Dove conducted and recorded between September 2012 and October 2013 are edited with still images and clips from the Dove family home-movie collection to create the documentary film Rita Dove: An American Poet, a biographical sketch by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. The result is a biographical sketch of one of America's most celebrated poets. Most of the still images and home movies used in this film are the results of the pioneering efforts of Rita's father to record his family life in the 1950s and 1960s. Ray Dove was a research chemist for the rubber industry in Akron, Ohio, and an amateur astronomer and avid photographer. His presence is felt throughout the film as the watchful eye behind the images contextualizes and develops Rita's unique story. The film follows her journey from her middle-class childhood to college years and through her early travels abroad. The soundtrack is based on elements from Tower of the Eight Winds by Judith Shatin. The intimacy of the dialogue between Rita Dove and Montes-Bradley camera gives the audience rare personal insight into the wide range of Dove's artistic passions. The 2011 National Medal of the Arts award talks about her enduring kinship with music and her lifelong love affair with the cello. The future Poet Laureate also tells of her experiences on a family excursion to México (her first trip abroad), where she describes, for the first time, her intimate connection with the murals of Diego Rivera. At the end of this sequence, Dove delivers a reading of the celebrated poem Perejil. The film's varied sequences are tied together by a series of readings by Ms. Doverecorded at the home of Montes-Bradley in Charlottesville VAthat serve either to set the theme for the upcoming sequence or to call up a particular memory, irrupting into one of Montes-Bradleys signature intricate editing patterns. In one such reading, Dove evokes her relationship with her grandfather, the main character of the title poem of her book Thomas and Beulah, a collection of Dove's poems for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. "Rita Dove: An American Poet" is an intimate and noteworthy portrait of a woman who emerged from the profound social transformations of the 1960s as a singular voice and became a distinguished bard decorated with the highest artistic honors of the land.

HD|30 minutes. English. Available on Kanopy Streaming and Alexander Street Press.

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