The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival

A Brief Historical Overview

Launched as a major initiative of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in 1986, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival within its first year spawned a complementary Poetry-in-the-Schools Program. Over their twenty-six year history, The Dodge Poetry Festival and the Dodge Poetry-in-the-Schools program merged into the Dodge Poetry Program, which has introduced a generation to some of our most noteworthy contemporary poets.

The fourteen biennial Poetry Festivals combined have drawn approximately 155,000 people from 43 states - including 18,000 teachers and 45,000 high school students who attended without charge and traveled from as far away as Florida, Maine, Minnesota and California. It is widely acknowledged as the largest poetry event in North America.

The Festival has been international in scope. Nobel Laureates Octovio Paz and Derek Walcott have appeared at the Festival, as well as figures of such international stature as Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe; Israel’s Yehuda Amichai and Aharon Shabtai; the United Kingdom’s Poet Laureate Andrew Motion; and Korea’s most prolific and respected poet, Ko Un, frequently short-listed for the Nobel Prize. Poets from Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Ghana, Ireland, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Vietnam and other nations have been represented at the Festival. Find out who was there each year here.

The Dodge Poetry Festivals have also given rise to several NPR radio programs and five PBS television series, including The Power of the Word, The Language of Life and Fooling with Words, all hosted by Bill Moyers and seen by a national audience of nearly 50 million. In 2008, Poetry Everywhere, a series of film shorts by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker David Grubin, and featuring footage from previous Dodge Poetry Festivals, premiered on WGBH. In the same year, the Dodge Festival You Tube channel was launched.

Historically, what may prove to be the Festival’s most significant accomplishment is the creation of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival Audio and Video Archive. Consisting of over 2,500 hours of audio and video recordings, it is one of the most extraordinary records of contemporary poetry and poets in the world. Moreover, the audio and video footage in these archives was recorded by recognized industry professionals to the highest broadcast standards. There is no other archive of equal scale and quality of twentieth and twenty-first century poets. Our plan is to make a wide range of selections from the archive available on the web, with the long-term goal of creating an on-line searchable database of contemporary poetry.