Rita Dove attended in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1975 and graduated with an MFA in 1977. In Conversations with Rita Dove, she spoke of her time there:
“I was the only Black person in the Iowa workshop at the time, and I think many Black writers who have been in workshops will have had the same experience: you’re always the only one. There falls the burden — and it is a burden, whether you choose to bear it or not — the burden of other people’s guilt. I discovered that in workshop, though I did get some valuable comments on some poems, that the poems dealing specifically with my heritage always got the worst comments, because people could not find a way around the guilt; they couldn’t quite figure it out.
It’s disheartening. Being a student in a creative writing workshop is a very naked experience and as the only person representing any other culture, you’re setting yourself up doubly. Which is why I think it’s so important — my God, we’ve just got to break down those barriers.”