Sunday, September 13, 2009

Calendar Alert: Poet Rita Dove, Vermont, Sept 25

Passed along for Major Jackson:

THE WRITERS' WORKSHOP & the Burlington Book Festival 2009 present
A Reading by Poet Laureate of the U.S. ('93-'95) and Pulitzer Prize Recipient, Rita Dove

8:00 - 8:45: Poetry Reading

About Sonata Mulattica

Sonata Mulattica is a book-length narrative poem, which follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Rita Dove tells Bridgetower's story, and some of Beethoven's and Haydn's, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower's frustrated genius and explores the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.

from The New Yorker
Dove’s verse sequence re-creates the life of the biracial violinist George Bridgetower, best remembered for being the first performer, and the initial dedicatee, of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. (Beethoven replaced his humorous dedication to the “lunatic and mulatto” after quarrelling with him, apparently over a woman.) A virtuosic treatment of a virtuoso’s life, the poems use all registers—nursery rhymes, diary entries, drama—and are stuffed with historical and musical arcana. Yet the book remains highly accessible, reading much like a historical novel. Dove is fascinated by Bridgetower’s life as a black musician and occasionally implies parallels with the world of jazz and rap, but the issue of race does not predominate. She is concerned equally with the status of musicians in a world of precarious patronage—even Haydn, at the Esterhazy estate, has “no more leave / to step outside the gates / than a prize egg-laying hen”—and with “the radiant web” of music itself.


Dear Friends & Colleagues:

I am delighted to announce the appearance in Vermont of Pulitzer-prize poet Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate of the United States and author of nine volumes of poetry including her latest collection Sonata Mulattica, published by W.W. Norton this year.

Ms. Dove will read on Friday, September 25, shortly after the opening ceremony and festival dedication, which begins at 7pm in the Film House of the Main Street Landing Performance Arts Center. Rita Dove's visit is part of the Writers' Workshop Reading Series, which is sponsored by the James and Mary Brigham Buckham Fund and the Department of English.

About the Author

Rita Dove published the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986), Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), Mother Love (1995), On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), American Smooth (2004), a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992), essays under the title The Poet's World (1995), and the play The Darker Face of the Earth, which had its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London, and other theatres. Seven for Luck, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1998. For "America's Millennium", the White House's 1999/2000 New Year's celebration, Ms. Dove contributed — in a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by John Williams's music — a poem to Steven Spielberg's documentary The Unfinished Journey. She is the editor of Best American Poetry 2000, and from January 2000 to January 2002 she wrote a weekly column, "Poet's Choice", for The Washington Post. Her latest poetry collection, Sonata Mulattica, published by W.W. Norton in the spring of 2009.

Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Ms. Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and, more recently, the 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the 1996 National Humanities Medal. In 2006 she received the coveted Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service (together with Anderson Cooper, John Glenn, Mike Nichols and Queen Noor of Jordan, and in 2008 she was honored with the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she received her B.A. summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She also held a Fulbright scholarship at the Universität Tübingen in Germany.

She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn. They have a grown daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn.

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