I got there a little early, still not knowing much about Rita Dove, except that she was a former US Poet Laureate and that there were some videos of her ballroom dancing on her website. They had a merchandise table set up with some of her books available for purchase, so I looked at them a bit while I was waiting for yarbiedoll to arrive. When I heard that she would be available for autograph signing after the event, I decided to go ahead and pick up a couple of books, because I enjoy collecting autographed books. I ended up getting her latest book, American Smooth: Poems, and a collection of several of her previous books, Selected Poems. Thumbing through the books, sampling a couple of poems hit-and-miss, it looked like I'd enjoy them.
After yarbiedoll arrived, we settled in the seats to enjoy the event. Prior to Rita Dove coming out to read some of her poems, there was a jazz ensemble that played for a little bit, then there was a demonstration of ballroom dancing from a local dance club. My favorite was watching a man who must have been a billion years old having the time of his life dancing with one of the younger ladies on the stage, who also appeared to be having the time of her life. Some of you may not know this, but I really enjoy ballroom dancing -- I learned how to dance my freshman year of college in order to fulfill a PE requirement. I loved it so much, I ended up auditing the class my junior year, just so that I'd be able to ballroom dance twice a week. So, needless to say, it was quite a treat to watch all of the dancers having such a good time. Partway through the demonstration, yarbiedoll leaned over and told me that she'd like to find a local place where we can go and informally learn how to ballroom dance, so I think we'll be looking to find such a place soon.
After the jazz and the dancing, Rita Dove made her entrance. Actually, she literally waltzed onto the stage with her husband. They danced for a few minutes, then left the stage so that Rita could be properly introduced by the event sponsors.
Rita read several poems -- many from her newest book, some from her previous works. Between readings, she shared stories from her life and talked about some of her latest hobbies. First, ballroom dancing. Many of the poems in American Smooth are about ballroom dancing, so when I realized that, I was even more excited to hear her read. I really was blown away. Partway through her readings, Rita confessed another hobby she's recently taken up: target shooting. I perked right up when I heard that. She then read a poem inspired by her target shooting hobby, which I also really enjoyed. It was a great event, and I think I enjoyed the poetry much more because I heard it than I would have if I had only read it.
For all of you writers out there, I heartily tip my hat to you. At one point in my life, I fancied myself a writer, or at least a writer in the rough. I don't know if that's me or not anymore, but I can still hope. Regardless, I have a great respect for all good writers, in whatever medium they choose: poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction, journalism, etc. Several of you who read this blog fit into one of those categories. Know that I respect and appreciate what you do with your craft and encourage you to keep it up.
After the reading, yarbiedoll and I went to a pub a block away from the theater and had a great supper, where I had what is absolutely the best cup of hot mint tea that I've ever had in my entire life. When I asked her, our server told us where they get the tea. It's a local coffee house, so I plan to make a stop there to pick up some tea for myself very soon.
All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful evening.