Rita Dove Honoured/Laureate’s Ode To His Hero – Poetry News Roundup February 22nd

We begin the week with a look at the poet being honoured during Black History Month. We also have an article about Simon Armitage’s new poem.

Rita Dove Honoured

The U.S State Department has honoured the former poet laureate Rita Dove and named her as a trailblazer. Dove, who is a professor at the University of Virginia, is one of five Black women who has been featured on the “ShareAmerica” platform in celebration of Black History Month.

The other women who have been honoured are Simone Leigh, the sculptor, Amy Sherald, the artist, the late singer Ella Fitzgerald and Toni Morrison, the late author.

These trailblazers have been honoured for the transformations and elevations that they have made to culture in America.

The U.S State Department uses “ShareAmerica” to share information about American culture and foreign policy on a global scale in order to create debate and discussion on a range of topics including the rule of law, human dignity and religious freedom.

The release mentions that Dove, along with the other women will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Former U.S poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and the current poet laureate Joy Harjo will also be honoured at the same time.

Dove was not only the youngest poet laureate at the time but was also the first African American to hold the role.

Poet Laureate Pens Ode to His Hero

Simon Armitage has written a poem in honour of John Keats, his hero, who he says is as relevant today as he was nearly 200 years ago. Summing Keats up in just a few sentences Armitage muses that he in fact had everything you would want from a romantic poet; he was suffering a terrible illness, he was penniless, in despair about the reception his work might receive, tormented by matters of the heart and of course dead by the age of 25. Whilst he was seen as something of a poster boy for the era for many years, Armitage argues that he was anything but.

He does, however, admit that it was not the subject matter or the language of Keats poetry that he was interested in at first, but rather his dark life story. This year marks the bicentenary of the death of Keats, and Armitage has penned a poem which he refers to as “a sonnet with a bonus line” The poem was commissioned by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association which is in Rome and will be engraved on a Grecian-style urn in a possible homage to the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. Armitage has taken his inspiration for the poem from the last few months of the poet’s life.

It was during these months that the poet’s health deteriorated, and he travelled to Italy on the advice of his doctor to seek out fresher air, leaving behind the love of his life Fanny Brawne with whom he had what is best described as a “complicated” relationship. So complicated, in fact, that it would appear he didn’t write to her during those last months or read the letters she sent.

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