If Maya Angelou is revered for having a significant impact on 20th century poetry, then the same could be said about Rita Dove. Born in 1952, the Ohio native was destined for literary success when she was selected as a Presidential Scholar in 1970, becoming one of the top 100 American high school graduates that year. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees, she began her career in academia, teaching creative writing at Arizona State University.

She would go on to earn national distinction in 1987, receiving the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 1986 semi-autobiographical work Thomas and Beulah. In May 1993, Dove was named Poet Laureate of the United States, a role she held for two years. Not only was she the youngest to ever be selected, at age 41, but she was also the first woman and first Black person to receive the high honor.

Since 1989, Dove has retreated to a life in southern Virginia, teaching English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Whether or not she intends to publish more original work in her storied career, these five works solidify her as one of the most eminent wordsmiths in the industry.