Women in Charge #1: Rita Dove

In the days leading up to (and for the duration of!) our WOMEN IN CHARGE show, we will be updating our blog once a week with posts about women we admire. If you are interested in writing about a woman you admire, email info(at)soho20gallery(dot)com!

Our first post comes courtesy of Laura Grothaus, a Cincinnati-based artist and writer.

Rita Dove, image courtesy of www.heinzawards.net

Rita Dove, image courtesy of www.heinzawards.net

I’ve cried a few times over how much I love poetry. They are beautiful tears, small and elegant, clenched out from my small and elegant artist eyes. They are tortured. They don’t know why poetry makes me do this, forcing them from their hovels in my tear ducts. Poetry is predictable, yet like a teenager, it is so very devoted to not being understood.*

Rita Dove is one of the reasons I can justify crying over poetry. I discovered her during my third year of high school. She was a name on a list of contemporary poets, none of which I knew. Around that point, the fact that poetry could be a profession, that people read contemporary poetry was only beginning to sink in. “Exit” was one of the first poems by Dove that I found, and it bruised me and elated me. Those final lines, “And now through/ the windshield the sky begins to blush/ as you did when your mother told you/ what it took to be a woman in this life” still live in my head. Dove told truths I hadn’t heard anyone else voice about the women she loved and lived with, about grandmothers, mothers, and daughters.

While reading her, I began to write those first tentative, painful poems about my grandmother, her death, and how feminism trickled into all my stories.Year later, I discovered my favorite of Dove’s books, Mother Love, a collection of sonnets retelling the story of Demeter and Persephone. I learned that she was U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, that she fought for more poets of color to be included in recent poetry anthologies and talked openly about the racism and sexism present in society and contemporary poetry. She continues to challenge me to write and paint more honestly and dangerously. And I feel okay when I find myself crying at 2 a.m. again.

*Granted, my tears exclaim, there are all sort of poets in all forms and functions of voice, and it is their overwhelming urgency, their sumptuous multitude that makes me weep simply for the sake of it.

Dove, Rita.“Exit” Mississippi Review, 1995. url: http://judithpordon.tripod.com/poetry/rita_dove_exit.html

You can find some of Laura’s work at http://lauragrothaus.weebly.com/

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