Former Poet Laureate Rita Dove has written six anthologies of poetry since the mid-’80s, but her most talked-about work is still 1986’s Pulitzer-winning anthology Thomas and Beulah, a series of chronologically arranged stories that follows Dove’s grandparents from adolescence to old age in the pre–Civil Rights south. Snobs and lay people alike appreciate the collection for being both earthy and elegant, literary and yet a quick read. Dove’s newest collection, Sonata Mulattica, which comes out this month, makes use of the same chronological and narrative structure to tackle a loftier history. Set at the turn of the 18th century, the anthology tells the story of a half-black, half-white composer who travels to Vienna to study under Beethoven. While the story isn’t quite as down home and familiar as Thomas and Beulah, the narrative is just as engaging. And if fans of the 1986 classic aren’t satisfied with the new material, they might be able to convince Dove to dip into her back catalog for an encore by shouting “Jiving” or “Pomade.”
DOVE READS MONDAY AT 7:30 P.M. AT THE FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY, 201 E. CAPITOL ST. SE. $12. (202) 544-4600.