Description of Festival Events
Readings and spoken word performances have always been at the heart of the Dodge Poetry Festival.
THURSDAY POETRY SAMPLERS
The Poetry Samplers provide ideal opportunities to be introduced to a wide sampling of the Festival Poets who’ll be participating in the Festival. Fifteen Festival Poets will read in the morning Poetry Sampler, and Twenty–four will read in the evening. The Poetry Samplers are always one of the highlights of the program, and one of the most popular events. Each poet will read for five to six minutes.
POETRY AND CONVERSATION: READINGS AND Q & A
These sessions provide an opportunity to hear a more sustained reading by a smaller number of Festival Poets and to enter into a conversation about their work, their lives and any other topics that spark participants’ interest. Three to four Festival Poets each read for approximately ten minutes. The readings are followed by an open-ended conversation and Q & A.
FESTIVAL POET READINGS
Festival Poet Readings provide excellent opportunities to experience more sustained readings by some newly discovered voices and some old favorites. During the daytime hours, Festival Poets give a series of readings from multiple stages throughout the Festival site. Typically, these are one-hour readings shared by several poets, who each read for ten to fifteen minutes.
MAIN-STAGE READINGS IN PRUDENTIAL HALL
These late afternoon and evening programs of half-hour readings on the main stage have been a central feature of every Dodge Poetry Festival since 1986. For the third time, they will take place in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s beautiful and acoustically splendid Prudential Hall.
ANOTHER KIND OF COURAGE
Classic war stories often evolve around finding the courage to enter battle, but there is another kind of courage required of veterans and their families as they face the impact and aftermath of war. For this special performance, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson and Brian Turner are joined by veterans who’ve participated in the Warrior Writers and Combat Paper workshops, and by poets Jehanne Dubrow, Elyse Fenton, Charles H. Johnson, Gardner McFall and musicians and singers from the Tomás Doncker and Parkington Sisters bands.
GIVING VOICE TO AMIRI BARAKA
In this celebration of his work, the Festival audience is invited to read a poem by Newark native Amiri Baraka, one our most influential contemporary poets and a frequent Dodge Festival Poet.
A TRIBUTE TO AMIRI BARAKA
Billy Collins, Natalie Diaz, Rita Dove, Juba Dowdell, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson, Mia X and other poets and guests celebrate the work of Amiri Baraka.
BRICK CITY VOICES
These readings offer the opportunity to sample and celebrate Newark’s long-thriving poetry community by hearing some of its most dynamic emerging voices.
POETRY & MUSIC PERFORMANCES
Musical performances and poetry and musical collaborations have been a part of every Dodge Festival. The Tomás Doncker Band, the Parkington Sisters, Laurence Hobgood, Kent Ippolito, the Newark Boys Chorus and current students and alumni of NJPAC's Wachovia Jazz for Teens program will be performing at various events throughout the festival.
Poets Marilyn Nelson and Gary Snyder are joined by the Newark Boys Chorus in this spoken and sung celebration of poems and songs of praise from a wide range of tradition and perspectives.
Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and Grammy-Award winning pianist, composer and arranger Laurence Hobgood perform their poetry and music collaboration PoemJazz, a conversation between the sounds of poetry and music.
POETRY AND MUSIC
Yusef Komunyakaa and the Tomás Doncker Band perform selections from their collaborations, which include songs with lyrics by Komunyakaa and Komunyakaa’s poems read to music composed by Doncker. They’ll discuss the process of collaborating while exploring the boundaries and interconnections between the spoken lyric poems and the sung lyric.
POETRY AND SONG
Nearly every anthology of English poetry begins with the English Ballads, which we read on the page as poetry because their music has been lost. Bards, griots, rappers and shamans have all mixed recitation and singing in their performances. In these sessions, poets, songwriters and musicians collaborate in performance and explore such questions as: What might we discover if we explore poetry and song as points on a spectrum as opposed to distinct art forms? How do they influence and inform each other? What possibilities arise if we question the boundaries between them?
Never lectures or seminars, these are true “conversations” between one to five Festival Poets and the audience. Speaking from personal experience and often using poems (their own and others’) as examples, poets discuss a broad range of topics. Time is allowed for questions from the audience.
Adrienne Rich wrote there is no such thing as an “American Poetry.” Instead, there are American Poetries, so many divergent schools that no single style or aesthetic can be singled out as the definitively “American” one. Festival Poets consider what we gain from this diversity and by listening more closely to each other.
A CERTAIN KIND OF ATTENTION
William Stafford once wrote that a poem was anything said or written with “a certain kind of attention.” This quality of attention was required of both the poet and the reader, for both the writing and reading of poetry require a certain adjustment to our normal level of attentiveness. What happens if we turn this attentiveness to the world, to our surroundings and to poetry itself?
FROM HOMER TO HIP-HOP: POETRY AND THE ORAL TRADITION
The oral tradition is the original source of poetry, far older than any distinctions we now make between poet and storyteller, shaman and actor. Homer, like the bard of Beowulf, likely recited his poems to a simple musical accompaniment, perhaps no more than a drumbeat. In recent decades we’ve seen an explosion of poetry slams, jams, readings and open mikes in urban, suburban and rural communities. Festival Poets explore what contemporary poets and spoken-word artists might learn by approaching each other as compatriots in a much older tradition.
FOR LACK OF WHAT IS FOUND THERE: POETRY AND SURVIVAL
The cliché of the self-destructive poet is known to us all because it makes for good drama. But we also know that physicians, police officers, dentists, and members of our military have well above average suicide rates, and alcoholism and substance abuse are found in every profession from lawyers to athletes. Festival poets discuss the possibility that poetry brings something into our lives that helps us survive, that might actually save us from (to slightly paraphrase William Carlos Williams) “[dying] miserably every day/for lack/of what is found [in poetry].”
GOING PUBLIC WITH PRIVATE FEELINGS
How much of one’s personal life can be made available in a work of art? Form and structure—art itself—can make it possible to approach certain feelings and to survive going public with them. This session touches on the difficulty and the importance of articulating private feelings, of trying to say personal truth, as Festival Poets use their own and others’ poems to illustrate the issues.
IF I COULD TALK POETRY
Notions of what constitutes poetic diction are as dynamic as our constantly changing street slang. Many poetic revolutions have claimed to be about a return to natural speech. T. S. Eliot wrote: “No poetry, of course, is ever exactly the same speech that the poet talks and hears: but it has to be in such a relation to the speech of his time that the listener or reader can say ‘that is how I should talk if I could talk poetry.’” It could be argued that the free-verse revolution began as an attempt to shape poems out of a distinctly American speech rhythm. How does the relationship between the word on the page and our everyday speech inform our poetry? Our notions of what poetry is?
THE INSPIRATION OF INFLUENCE
The title of Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence has passed into popular parlance as a catch-all phrase for the fear, intimidation and resentment younger artists supposedly feel toward their elders. Yet, ask any accomplished poet about the poets who have mattered to them, or about their own teachers and mentors, and you’re more likely to hear admiration, appreciation and gratitude. What happens when a poet (or any artist) lets go of the fear of being influenced and, instead, embraces and acknowledges it?
MAKING A LIFE IN POETRY
What’s the difference between wanting to be a poet and choosing to make a life in poetry? The real challenges may be about a lot more than writing poems. How does the culture we live in influence our notions of how this is or isn’t possible, or the validity of such a choice? How do we make a life in poetry? Is writing poetry, or wanting to publish a requirement?
MASKS AND MASCULINITY/POETRY AND THE RITUALS OF MEN
Our cliché notions about the “poetic” personality and the “masculine” one may seem completely at odds, yet many poems have been written that celebrate the rituals of men, their rites of passage, the behaviors that society overtly or tacitly accepts as validating masculinity. Some of these poems, although once part of the “official” canon, are now viewed as misogynistic or celebrating self-defeating, even self-destructive behaviors. How does poetry help men navigate societal demands regarding masculinity? What masks does it offer to hide behind? What opportunities to question them?
MIRROR BLOSSOM URN COLLAGE
Is poetry’s purpose “to hold the mirror up to nature” or “to teach and delight?” Should a poem be an organic form that grows naturally out of the poet’s attempts at self-expression or a “well-wrought urn” we admire as much for its construction as for its content? Is it a clearly told story or a collage of images linked by dream logic? This conversation will explore how our assumptions about poetry and form influence our sense of what a poem is or what is possible in poetry.
Festival Poets consider and discuss questions related to the craft of making poems. Depending on the poet, these broad-reaching conversations can range from the general (What is the larger purpose of craft? What are the rewards of trying to master it?) to the specific (How do work schedules, patterns of revision, the uses of traditional forms, the subtleties of line breaks or the place of sound and phrasing in composition come into play when considering craft?).
ON THE LIFE OF THE POET
What goes on behind and around a life that produces poems? How does one find a way to make a life as a poet? Festival Poets share their personal observations and experiences, outlining their own challenges and rewards, delights and disappointments.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS
The spirit of play, while often experimental, liberating, willing to risk embarrassment, even goofiness, can also be serious: Sword play is deadly. On the other hand, actors in danger of taking themselves too seriously are often admonished by their directors to remember that they are “players” in a “play,” and not to lose the quality of childlike freedom those words connote. How and why do poets “play” with sound, words, humor, fractured syntax, fantasy, absurdity, parody, dream imagery, collage and just about anything that appeals to their imaginations or helps them achieve their affects? How can a spirit of playfulness influence our experience as readers?
POETICS OF WAR: WRITING THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE
Veterans who have participated in Warrior Writers and Combat Paper NJ workshops share their work and discuss the importance of opening a dialog between veterans and their communities. Panelists talk about how both organizations provide a supportive network and outlet for communicating their military experiences honestly, helping challenge the "silent veteran" stereotype.
POETRY AND PERFORMANCE
What are the boundaries between someone acting out a dramatic monologue and someone reading a poem aloud from the page? For most of human history, the term “performance poet” would have seemed an oxymoron. Of course Homer and the author of Beowulf “performed” their poems, but to what extent? How have slams and performance competitions influenced our expectations regarding how we receive poems? How is the communal experience of a poetry reading related to the private act of silently reading alone?
POETRY AND PRIDE
From Sappho to Whitman to Ginsberg to Rich, poetry as we know it would not exist without the contributions of the LGBTQ community. No doubt members of this community, like those of many other minorities, have found and forged some of their sense of identity and kinship through the shared experiences and feelings communicated through poetry. Festival Poets will discuss how personal pride is discovered and fostered through poetry and the poetry community.
POETRY AND STORYTELLING
Many of the first poems told stories. For millennia the boundary between bard and storyteller was indistinct. Our ancient epics all encompass grand narratives. Some have asserted that the rise of prose fiction has negated the need for poetry to continue to tell stories. So how and why do narrative poems continue to have a powerful hold on many readers and listeners, and appeal to so many contemporary poets? How does poetry tell stories in a way no other kind of writing can?
POETRY AND THE PRACTICE OF THE WILD
Poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder has written that poets, by the nature of their art, are closer to the fundamental elements of being alive—birth, love, death, —and that this could (and should) lead to a greater attentiveness to the natural world. In this reading and informal conversation with Dodge’s Environmental Director Margaret Waldock, Snyder will share a lifetime’s worth of experience exploring the relationship between poetry and our connection to the world, and how this informs our sense of our place in the animal kingdom, nature, the wild, and geological history.
POETRY AND WORKING LIFE
It is almost always assumed that a poet must perform some other work to earn a living and sustain a life in this art. The late Stanley Kunitz, a lifelong gardener, advised younger poets to find some work that took them completely out of their heads, work that required physical engagement with the world. Many poets have created some of their most powerful poems from work experiences, and from speaking for the silent and unheard who do some of our dirtiest and most thankless jobs. What does it mean that we even draw a distinction between “work” and the poet’s work?
POETS FOR TEACHERS
Teachers have their own reasons for caring about poetry, and face unique challenges keeping it a sustained part of their own and their students’ lives. These sessions are intended for educators at all classroom levels, but the general public would certainly find them engaging. As in POETS ON POETRY, Festival Poets lead a conversation about poems and the art of poetry itself.
POETS ON POETRY
To paraphrase Gerald Stern, poets are readers who occasionally stop reading long enough to write something down. In these sessions, Festival Poets talk about their vital relationship to poetry as readers and artists. They may address their understanding of poetry, their experience of becoming a poet and how individual poems—both those written by themselves and others—have contributed to that process.
PRESENT IMPERFECT: POETS ON POETRY AND DISABILITY
All social movements—civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights—are inevitably accompanied by and even propelled by movements in the arts, especially literature, whether in the form of poetry, non-fiction, drama or fiction. We’ve seen how the disability rights movement has increased public awareness of accessibility and safety issues, but what does it mean to have a disability poetics? How does this relate to the whole question of identity poetics? How does poetry challenge our notions of disability?
SAYING THE UNSAYABLE
Poets often take on topics that might never be broached at the dinner table, as well as reveal secrets kept by individuals, families, communities or nations. Witnesses’ testimonies to the horrors of war, daring political protests, sexual trauma and all forms of abuse have found their way into poems. How does the unsayable get said? Why do we need to say it? Festival Poets explore these ideas, along with the preparation needed to make art out of what might, in many contexts, be considered “taboo” material.
A SENSE OF PLACE
Some poets’ work bears the indelible stamp of where they came from: that can be a geographic place, a type of environment, a particular family, a socio-economic position, a race, a gender, a sexual orientation, or a sense of entitlement or isolation. Others discovered a place later in life that inspired them, and many have been challenged by society’s admonitions that they “know their place.” This conversation will look into the many ways poetry explores our sense of place.
SILENCE IS BECOME SPEECH: THE EMERGENCE OF WOMEN’S VOICES
“Silence is become speech,” Muriel Rukeyser wrote in “The Speed of Darkness,” one of her groundbreaking poems. Compare the number of women poets in any turn-of-the-19th-century anthology with that of a collection published today and the emergence of women’s voices in the century is dramatic. What has this shift meant to poetry in general? How has it affected what we, as readers, expect or accept from poetry? How has it changed the poems that men write? That women write? What does it mean for women to have a sense of community within the poetry community?
SING AN AMERICAN TUNE
Jazz, Blues and Bluegrass emerged and changed modern music at the same time that free-verse was revolutionizing poetry. These distinctly American innovations influenced music and poetry around the world, as did soul, folk, funk, and hip hop. What does it mean to come of age in a country where so many modern innovations in poetry and songwriting began? How intertwined are poetry and song in shaping our sense of the lyric utterance? What it’s capable of? How do these arts influence each other? How has a distinctly American music shaped a distinctly American poetry?
TELL ALL THE TRUTH BUT TELL IT SLANT
In one poem, Emily Dickinson advises “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.” What is the purpose of approaching truth obliquely? Is there a truth greater than literal accuracy? Can we ever know how much of an apparently autobiographical poem is literally true? How can we trust the testimony of its author, regardless of what they assert about the authentic or fictional nature of a piece? Why should such questions matter to readers or poets?
THE VOICE THAT IS GREAT WITHIN US
Wallace Stevens’ used “the voice that is great within us” to describe that mysterious something in us that rises up and gives some utterance in response to the world. Some claim this voice is pre-human, that our impulse to sing and make poems links us to frogs, coyote, whales and songbirds. Whatever it is, there is some universal impulse that compels us to make sound with our voices, whether a yodel of joy on a mountain summit, or a whispered prayer by a hospital bed. What is this voice that is great within us? How does it rise in us? How do we listen for it? How do we hear it in poems?
WHO IS IT CAN TELL ME WHO I AM: POETRY AND IDENTITY
Having lost all the trappings that secured his identity, King Lear asks, half mad with desperation, “Who is it can tell me who I am?” Poetry, like all the arts, invites us to ask who we are. How we explore, discover, express, define and challenge who we are through poetry will be the focus of this conversation.
YOUNG POETS FOR TEACHERS
This reading and discussion offers a unique opportunity for teachers, students and others to get a first-hand glimpse into what inspires young people to become deeply engaged with poetry. The five 2014 National Student Poet winners share their award-winning work and the experiences-- classroom activities, lessons, teachers, poets and poems-- that sparked and fueled their connection to poetry.