Readings and spoken word performances have always been at the heart of the Dodge Poetry Festival.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON POETRY SAMPLER
The Poetry Samplers provide ideal opportunities to be introduced to a wide sampling of the Festival Poets who’ll be participating in the Festival. Twenty–four Festival Poets will read in the afternoon Poetry Sampler. 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 minutes.
ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS CHANCELLORS’ READING
The Academy of American Poets’ Poets Forum at the Dodge Poetry Festival begins on Thursday night with this reading by Academy Chancellors Elizabeth Alexander, Mark Doty, Linda Gregerson, Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Khaled Mattawa, Marilyn Nelson, Alicia Ostriker, Alberto Rios, Arthur Sze and Anne Waldman.
POEMS 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. These readings are shared by five poets, who each read for ten 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 fourth time, they will take place in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s beautiful and acoustically splendid Prudential Hall.
A TRIBUTE TO GALWAY KINNELL
Billy Collins, Martín Espada, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Tim Seibles, Vijay Seshadri and others celebrate the work of longtime Festival favorite Galway Kinnell.
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.
A reading by poets from Cave Canem, which creates a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.
A reading by poets from CantoMundo, a national organization that cultivates a community of Latinx poets through workshops, symposia, and public readings.
Poets from Kundiman, a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American creative writing, read their work and comment on the importance of the Kundiman community.
RUTGERS/NEWARK MFA READING
This reading offers the opportunity to hear some of the emerging voices from the Rutgers University MFA program in Creative Writing in Newark.
Veterans who have participated in Warrior Writers and Combat Paper NJ workshops share their work.
There will be open readings throughout all four days of the Festival in Military Park.
Poetry and Music Performances
Musical performances and poetry and music collaborations have been a part of every Dodge Festival. Parkington Sisters, Jamila Woods, the Newark Boys Chorus and current students and alumni of NJPAC's Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program will be performing at various events throughout the festival.
Poets Mahogany L. Browne and Martín Espada are joined by Parkington Sisters and the Newark Boys Chorus in this spoken and sung celebration of poems and songs of praise from a wide range of traditions and perspectives.
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?
POETRY LIKE BREAD: POEMS OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Like the anthology of the same name, this performance gets its title from these lines from Roque Dalton’s poem “Like You” (Como Tú): “I believe the world is beautiful/and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.” Join us for this powerful blend of poetry, spoken word and song, to experience how poetry, like bread, can offer us life and sustenance in challenging times.
Never lectures or seminars, these are true “conversations” between one to five Festival Poets and the audience. Speaking from personal experience and 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.
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.
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.
I, TOO, SING AMERICA: POETRY AND RACE
For over fifty years, particularly since the emergence of the Black Arts and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, monolithic notions of a Western Canon have been eroded and enriched by an increasingly diverse range of traditions, aesthetics and perspectives. This is true in poetry and in our very sense of what it means to be American. But power almost always prefers to hold onto power, and institutionalized authority is rarely shared willingly. Poets Marilyn Chin, Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Claudia Rankine and Vijay Seshadri explore the connections between race and poetics and poetic identity.
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?
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.
OUR HOUSE: ECO-POETRY AND THE EARTH
When Joy Harjo writes, “My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world,” she is writing out of the 10,000 year old traditions of the first human settlers of this continent. It is a perspective echoed in the word ecology itself, which has its roots in the Greek word for home, and in influential works like John Muir’s The Mountains of California and Gary Snyder’s Earth House Hold, which brought to wider attention that we are not only stewards of but participants in the natural world. Moderated by Margaret Waldock, former Executive Director of the Hunterdon Land Trust and current Director of Environmental Programs at the Dodge Foundation, “Our House” engages Robert Hass, Jane Hirshfield and Gary Snyder in a conversation on how poetry and eco-awareness interconnect.
THE POETIC LINE (Poets Forum)
The poetic sentence is one of the most emphasized elements of form. Is it a unit of time, of perception, of thought, a choreography or orchestration of words? Academy Chancellors will discuss the syntax of the line, and how it can indicate patterns in meter, rhythm, and rhyme, influencing the aesthetics and emphases of the poem.
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 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 ACTIVISM (Poets Forum)
Academy Chancellors will explore the unique ways in which poets and poems help express, document, and translate current events. In what ways do the roles of poet and activist intersect? How does the poetry community engage with social issues?
POETRY AND STORYTELLING
To the ancients, the name of poet was given in common to artists we now separate into poets, storytellers and playwrights. This likely stems from their common source, when they emerged along with ritual and theater, as humans first attempted to tell their stories. All these arts require no other materials beyond one human voice for their creation, and no more than one listener to broach the gap between strangers. Poet, memoirist and essayist Katha Pollitt talks about the connections and differences between trying to tell one’s story in poetry and/or prose.
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.
POETRY IS NEWS THAT STAYS NEWS
A hundred years ago, Ezra Pound wrote that Monday’s news was worth a nickel, but by Tuesday it was trash, while “poetry is news that stays news.” Founded in 1977, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) uses the arts and innovative storytelling practices to engage audiences with investigative journalism. This session will showcase how they’re using poetry and theater to breathe new life into stories. Poets and playwrights will discuss how creative storytelling methods are reaching new and diverse communities with the emotional – and factual – truth of some of the important stories of our time.
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.
THE ROLE OF THE POET LAUREATE: LOCAL AND BEYOND (Poets Forum)
Academy Chancellors who have served or currently serve as a Poet Laureate (Juan Felipe Herrera, current U.S. Poet Laureate; Marilyn Nelson, former Poet Laureate of Connecticut; Alberto Ríos, Poet Laureate of Arizona; and Arthur Sze, former Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico) discuss the exciting local and national projects they have initiated through their laureateships, as well as the responsibilities that come with these honorary positions.
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?
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?
WASHING IN CLEAR WATER: ASIAN POETRY IN AMERICA
This simple image from third century Chinese poet Yü Ch’an might serve as a metaphor for the influence of Asian poetry on American poets in the 20th century. From Ezra Pound’s early translations from the Chinese, through the emergence of Imagism and the Beats, to the popularization of the haiku, now a form as familiar to American students as the Shakespearean sonnet, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry would not be what they are without the influence of Asian Poetry. Moderated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, this conversation invites Hass and Marilyn Chin, Jane Hirshfield, Li-Young Lee and Gary Snyder to discuss their personal journeys as students of Asian poetry.
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.
THE WORK TO BE DONE: POETRY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Taking its title from the closing words of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “to the Diaspora,” with its reminder of the work that remains “to be done to be done to be done,” this special event includes a discussion with Martín Espada, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Katha Pollitt, Claudia Rankine and special guest moderator WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. The many ways these poets and writers have engaged with their times—as political columnists and essayists, tenant rights lawyers, advocates and activists—will be among the topics explored in conversation and in a Q & A with the audience. The Work To Be Done will be followed by main stage readings by Espada, Pollitt and Rankine.