Rita Dove : How Does the Shadow Shine?

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Scottish Poetry Library

23rd October
Rita Dove’s list of accolades as a poet is quite a read… The first African American to have been appointed as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, she also received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. To be in the presence of such a woman on a Friday evening in Edinburgh was a real treat. And the room was full of keen poetry enthusiasts.  Dove visited the Scottish Poetry Library giving a lecture and promoting her new book ‘Sonata Mulattica’, a collection of poems recreating the life of a virtuoso violinist, George Bridgetower. A name not widely known in music history due to a falling out with Beethoven, but Bridgewater was the inspiration for and original player of the Violin Sonata No. 9, which was later attributed to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who allegedly said the piece was unplayable! The original dedication read, “Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer [Bridgetower], gran pazzo e compositore mulattico” (Mulatto Sonata composed for the mulatto Brischdauer, great fool mulatto composer).
This book is sure to be an informative and beautiful sonata of words. Dove composed this poetic biography from the perspective of Bridgetower, his father and Beethoven, embodying each character through her filters. We were treated to a select few of the poems, which felt like song without music. These where interludes to a lecture in poetic form and the creative process. 
Dove is an extraordinary woman, on paper and in the flesh. If you have any doubt as to whether to read this book…
“Do I care enough, George Augustus Bridgetower,
To miss you? I don’t even know if I really like you.
I don’t know if your playing was truly gorgeous,
or if it was just you, the sheer miracle of all.
That darkness swaying close enough to touch,
palm tree and sambo and glistening tiger
running circles into golden oil. Ah,
Master B, little great man, tell me:
How does a shadow shine?”
A beautiful history lesson or a history of beauty… Dove captivated and inspired with  every word and silence.
Reviewer : Ali Bell

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