vocalisms #21: Rita Dove


vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from voca, the Poetry Center's online audio video library of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

photo of Rita Dove

In this track from her 2016 reading, Rita Dove describes the “wildcard” assignment she always gives to her students: a personalized writing prompt meant to disrupt their routines, ranging from writing about fruit to howling in the middle of a field. Dove, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995, reads the poem that came out of a wildcard assignment she gave to herself, which required her to start all the words in a line with the same letter. The result, “Ode to My Right Knee,” sparkles with compressed language, wit, and wordplay. voca houses recordings of more than twenty U.S. Poets Laureate, many of whom read at the Poetry Center more than once, including Robert Hass, Louise Glück, Juan Felipe Herrera, Maxine Kumin, W.S. Merwin, and William Stafford.