Poetry highlights in honor of National Poetry Month!
Poet of the Day: Rita Dove

Rita Dove is a poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, editor, and lyricist from Akron, Ohio. At 40, Dove became the youngest person and first African American to be named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1992. She was the second African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry,, and she was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Obama in 2011. Her most famous work is Thomas and Beulah , a novel in verse that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. In addition to poetry, Dove writes about music and composes songs. She also has edited numerous books, written short stories and a play, and contributed essays and reviews to a variety of publications. Her most recent work, Sonata Mulattica , tells the story of George Bridgetower, an African-European violinist who lived in Vienna in the 1800s. She reportedly told  Black American Literature Forum : “There's no reason to subscribe authors to particular genres. I'm a writer, and I write in the form that most suits what I want to say.” 

Photo copyright Fred Viebahn
This poet belongs in our classrooms because…
her work is both aspirational and inspirational. Her love of language is immediately evident in the lyrical and haunting beauty of her words. She is able to seamlessly blend history, biography, and poetry into one intertwined composition. Dove’s writing is instantly relatable and deeply moving.   
A Poem by Rita Dove
Heart to Heart
It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—
but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
Selected Works by Rita Dove
T he Yellow House on the Corner  (1980)-poetry
Museum  (1983)-poetry
Fifth Sunday (1985)- short stories
Thomas and Beulah  (1986)-novel in verse
Grace Notes  (1989)-poetry
Through the Ivory Gate (1992)-novel
Selected Poems  (1993)-poetry
Mother Love  (1995)-poetry
The Poet’s World (1995)-essays
The Darker Face of the Earth (1996)-play
Seven for Luck (1998)-songs
On the Bus with Rosa Parks  (1999)-poetry
The Best American Poetry 2000 (2000)- edited collection
American Smooth  (2004)-poetry
Sonata Mulattica  (2009)-novel in verse
The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry  (2011)-edited collection
Collected Poems 1974-2004 (2016)-poetry
Other Resources about Rita Dove
Classroom Connection
excerpt from Lesson Plan for Teaching "Heart to Heart"
1. Divide students into groups and ask them to discuss the following questions: Why does giving your heart away feel so dangerous? Why do we equate hearts with love? How can we use our hearts and our vulnerability to create authentic writing? 

2. Ask each group to summarize their responses to the questions for the whole class.

3. Tell students that authors have written about the heart for hundreds of years. The heart even figures in popular songs. 

4. Play Bruce Springsteen’s, “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart,” video and song .

5. In their groups, ask students to answer these questions:
What do you think Springsteen means when he says that “everybody’s got a hungry heart?”
Do you agree with him?

6. Write the word synecdoche on the board and offer this definition:
a literary device in which the part stands in for the whole.

7. Ask students if they can think of any examples of synecdoche. One example; “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears” from Julius Caesar . In this line, Marc Antony doesn’t want only ears but the attention of the people. Another example: The White House issued a decree. The White House building didn’t actually do anything, but the sentence implies that the people who work inside the building issued the decree. 

8. Read Rita Dove’s “Heart to Heart” aloud.

9.  Listen to Dove’s recording of the poem in a second reading.

10. Lead a whole-class discussion of the poem: How does the last line of the poem relate to the idea of synecdoche? What does Dove mean when she says, “it’s all yours now, but you’ll have to take me too”
11. Activity : Heart map creation. Heart maps are drawings of hearts with pictures and words of all the things that one “loves” written on them. Show students examples of heart maps
12. The teacher should supply a model of their own heart map, which they have created prior to the lesson.

13. Pass out colored paper and colored markers. Ask students to draw a heart on the paper. Then, ask them to write people, places, ideas, and things that they love on the paper. These will be used as writing territories later. 

Closing: (5 minutes)
1. Tell students that giving their heart to another means giving more than just love. It also means giving of the whole self.
2. Ask students to share their heart maps with each other in pairs or groups. Collect the heart maps to post in the room.
3. Tell students that they will use the heart maps to help spark their writing later.
Clarice M. Moran is an assistant professor of English and English education at Kennesaw State University in metro Atlanta. She teaches and works with preservice secondary English language arts teachers in both middle and high schools. She is a former middle and high school English teacher and is the coeditor of Applying the Flipped Classroom Method to English Language Arts . She has two forthcoming books on using digital technologies in the ELA classroom. She has been a member of NCTE since 2008. Find her on Twitter @claricemoran.