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The Poetry Society of America and Queens College Present Poets in the Playhouse: Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove

FLUSHING, N.Y., April 19, 2012
Next month, the Poetry Society of America (PSA), the nation’s oldest poetry organization, and the Queens College MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation will present Poets in the Playhouse. This event brings poetry from page to stage with a theatrical performance of Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove’s Pulitzer prize-winning collection, by the students of Queens College. Poets in the Playhouse will be held on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 pm in The Little Theater at Queens College, King Hall, Room 115.

There will be an introduction by Darrel Alejandro Holnes, PSAPrograms Director.Following the program, Holnes will moderate an informal conversation about the creative process among Dove, the cast, faculty, and other participants.

“This isn’t simply a reading of Rita Dove’s poems, but our attempt to invent a new form,” explains playwright and QC professor Richard Schotter. “Tyler Rivenbark, an MFA student, has shaped the poems through the use of music, movement, slides, etc. A director/choreographer will further dramatize the material. As far as I know, this is a first for Thomas and Beulah.”

Rita Dove received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Thomas and Beulah in addition to numerous other literary and academic honors. Some of these include 22 honorary doctorates, the 1996 National Humanities Medal/Charles Frankel Prize from President Bill Clinton, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, and most recently, the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Dove has published nine volumes of poetry, a book of short stories (Fifth Sunday, 1985), a collection of essays (The Poet’s World, 1995), and a novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992). Dove and her husband live in Charlottesville, Virginia where she is on faculty at the University of Virginia.

Thomas and Beulah tells the semi-fictionalized chronological story of Rita Dove’s maternal grandparents in the form of a two-part book of narrative poems set during the period of the Great Migration - the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the south from 1910 to 1970. Her grandfather Thomas is featured in “Mandolin,” the book’s first part, and his wife, Beulah is the focus of “Canary in Bloom,” the second part. The two sections are meant to offer the male and female perspectives on some seventy years of American history.

Poets in the Playhouse, the brainchild of Holnes, exemplifies a new multi-arts model that pushes the boundaries of genre to place poetry at the crossroads of American life—a model that PSA will further explore in coming years.The Poetry Society of America, the nation’s oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910. Its mission is to build a larger and more diverse audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the vitality and breadth of poetry in the cultural conversation, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life. For more information, visit

The Queens College MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation, introduced in fall 2007, is the newest of CUNY's MFA Programs. Directed by poet Nicole Cooley, it is only one of two in the country to include literary translation as a parallel track—a reflection of the international atmosphere of the campus and its home borough. Faculty members are all award-winning writers dedicated to teaching. Students also benefit from access to the wider arts community that is New York City. For more information,

Program Schedule

Friday, May 4, 7 pm

Queens College—The Little Theater, King Hall, Room 115.


Rita Dove’s Thomas and Beulah


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