Rita Dove on her time in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Rita Dove on her time in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop


Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

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.”


Dove, Rita; Ingersoll,  Earl G. Conversations with Rita Dove. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2003.