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Transcript

Question: “The Undressing”

Rita Dove: I could. Let me think. What could I do?  I’ll read a short one and but I have to give you a little gloss for it, if I can find it. All right, in this poem… This is from my new book “Sonata Mulattica,” which tells the story of George Bridgetower, a mulatto violinist from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this poem he was a prodigy. He was a little boy, ten years-old in England playing his violin in front of all the music lovers of London and his father is sent away from London. The Prince of Wales says, “I’ll take care of the little boy.” And so you have this little boy who is… has the best job in the world for a musician, but at the same time he has no family and in this poem the prince has ordered him to go into his room and to change into British clothing. “The Undressing:” “First the sash, peacock blue. Silk unfurling round and round until I’m the India ink dotting a cold British i. Now I can bend to peel off my shoes, try to hook the tasseled tips into the emerald sails of my satin pantaloons. Farewell sir monkey jacket, monkey red. Ado shirt tart and bright as the lemons the prince once let me touch. Goodbye lakeside meadow. Goodbye hummingbird throat. No more games. I am to become a proper British gentleman, cuffed and buckled with breeches and a fine cravat, but how? My tossed bed glows while I, I am a smudge, a quenched wick, a twig shrouded in snow.”

Recorded on November 19, 2009

 

Rita Dove Recites a Poem

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