Violinist and poet will perform in harmony at HCC

Poetry and music dovetail on the same stage when Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove and violinist Joshua Coyne appear together in a free program on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at Howard Community College's Monteabaro Hall.

Titled "A Word of Difference: Rita Dove and Joshua Coyne Celebrate History and Creativity," this event celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo).


The event's interdisciplinary nature can be seen in the local groups serving as partners with HoCoPoLitSo: Candlelight Concert Society, Columbia (Md.) Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Howard Community College Music Department and Columbia Film Society.

By way of local literary history, this won't be Dove's first appearance before a Howard County audience at a jointly sponsored event. HoCoPoLitSo and the Columbia Festival of the Arts brought this African-American poet for a reading at Slayton House in June, 1999. At that event, Dove read from her poetry collection "On the Bus with Rosa Parks."


The upcoming event grows out of Dove's 2009 poetry collection "Sonata Mulattica." It concerns an actual historical figure, the late-18th- and early-19th-century violinist George Washington Bridgetower, who had an Afro-Caribbean father and a Polish-German mother.

Bridgetower has a place in classical music history. Beethoven wrote the "Kreutzer Sonata" for him. At its first public performance in 1803, Bridgetower played the violin and Beethoven played the piano.

At the HoCoPoLitSo event, Dove will read Bridgetower-themed poems and the young African-American classical violinist and composer Joshua Coyne will play his own original music inspired by literature.

The program also includes excerpted scenes from an upcoming documentary movie inspired by this subject, as well as a discussion period and book signing.

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Rita Dove's interest in Bridgetower goes back to her youth in Akron, Ohio, when she studied the cello. Her general interest in music remains to the present day, as, for instance, when she collaborated with composer John Williams on a song cycle, "Seven for Luck," which had its premiere with Williams conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1998.

Dove, 62, served as poet laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995. When she was appointed to that Library of Congress-administered position, she was the first African-American to hold the poet laureate position, and, at 40, was the youngest person to ever hold it.

The poet laureate position itself was created in 1986. It took the place of a poetry consultant position, which lasted at the Library of Congress from 1937 to 1986. The only two African-American poets who held the consultant position during its long history were Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Where being a laureate is concerned, Dove also served as poet laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has taught since 1989 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.


Dove, who also has received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, writes poetry that often deals with the African diaspora, and that history includes her own family's history. Indeed, Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for her volume of poetry "Thomas and Beulah," which is based on the lives of her maternal grandparents.

She has published eight additional books of poetry, a novel, a book of short stories, a play, and a book of essays. Dove also edited the "Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry."

The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society presents poet Rita Dove and violinist Joshua Coyne on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m., in Howard Community College's Monteabaro Hall, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., in Columbia. Although this is a free event, reservations are requested at For additional info, call 443-518-4568 or go to