Dodge Poetry Festival 2012 Announced
Written by Kate Stone
The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation announced the dates for the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival at a press conference last Tuesday. Poets and poetry-enthusiasts alike from across the continent flock to this largest poetry event in North America every two years. This year’s festival, like 2010’s, is to go down at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark. The festival will span four days: October 11th – 14th.
I am indescribably excited for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
[A] The NJPAC is just one block away from my school here in lovely, scenic Newark. I am looking out at the gorgeous building as I type, actually. While Newark may leave a bit to be desired, this fourth-largest city in the state is downright psyched about poetry, and this festival. Any city that gets down with poetry is a city I’m down with, baby. Not to mention Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker was in attendance at the press conference, and any may who supports poetry and saves his neighbor from a blazing house fire is a-okay in my book. Rock on, Mayor Booker. Additionally, the NJPAC is an incredibly beautiful facility and, I think, a great place to lodge hundreds of poets for four amazing, intensive days.
[B] I did not have a chance to attend the 2010 festival. Although all the glory that is the Dodge Poetry Festival was mere footsteps from my law school, I was too busy having my soul sucked out through my eyes during my 1L year to crawl over and enjoy. Since 2010 was the first time Dodge was held in Newark, I was fearful I’d missed my chance to mosey down the street to Poetry Mecca. While my 1L grades made the sacrifice well-worth it, my soul could definitely use some PLC recovery time (poetic love and care, obvi.). Not only will I be at the PAC October 11th – 14th with bells on, but I’m already working on roping my study partner and law school bestie into coming with. Poetry: One of the few times peer pressure is not only acceptable, but encouraged – sort of like tequila shots on your 21st birthday. (Sidebar: My sister turns 21 one week from today – and this reference was for you, Shortstack.)
[C] The Main Stage Lineup. While I’m usually more excited about poets features on the other various stages (Marjorie Barnes comes to mind, now and at least once a day, every day – hot damn, what a poetess), I may or may not have legitimately shrieked aloud in the school café when I read this year’s Main Stagers. U.S. Poet Laureate Phillip Levine, Terrance Hayes, Ada Limon, Gregory Orr, and Eavan Boland are those I’m particularly excited for. This year’s other Main Stagers include Henri Cole, Nikky Finney, Juan Felipe Herrera, Jane Hirshfield, Fanny Howe, Kurtis Lamkin, Dorainne Laux, Thomas Lux, Arthur Sze, Natasha Trethewey, C.K. Williams and Raul Zurita.
[D] Patricia. Smith. I’m so excited to see her on the Main Stage, she gets her own listing point. Not only will Smith be performing poems from Blood Dazzler, a book that altered the trajectory of my own poetry, but she will be doing so accompanied by musicians from the NJ Symphony Orchestra. (Ed. Note: Smith was interviewed in the December 2011 issue.)
[E] The biggest poetry event on the continent goes down in my home state. Hell yes.
Those of you who have read my posts before can testify that I am not normally the touchy-feely-easily-excitable-overly-sentimental kind of gal – and I’d like to think I’m not now, either, since those girls generally give me heebie jeebies. Nevertheless, I must say: The Dodge Poetry Festival has the potential to be a life-changer.
I first attended Dodge in 2006, when the festival was still held outdoors at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, NJ. The festival was held under various white tents in the fields, with the Main Stage under a mammoth one in the center of the grounds. It is weird, the memories that stick with you. It rained like crazy during that 11th festival, and the event was all gray clouds, spotty showers, and mud up to your knees and squeaking around in your shoes.
I remember eating the most amazing pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had (local, small business vendors catered the event) and listening to the sound of a small three piece band playing the steel pan. To this day, I associate that sound with poetry. It was the first time I heard Sandra Cisneros read and talk poetry, and any one of my friends can tell you what an impact that had. A friend was similarly impacted by the words of Mark Doty. I listened to Allen Ginsberg, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, so many poets I can’t even list them all. I wrote six poems during the 8 hours I spent there during my freshman year of high school, and had to throw away those sneakers.
Each time I’ve attended the festival, I come out with something new, that honestly changes the way I see and approach my life. Something about Dodge makes you not only want to be a better writer, but the best person you can be, everyday. The festival is inspiring in so many more ways than you’d guess a poetry festival can be. Each trip I’ve made acts as a reminder of why I started writing poetry, of why poetry matters, of all I have to be thankful for, and of the power poetry can have if we are willing to give ourselves over to it, really give ourselves over, and scream or whisper all we have to say through the medium.
General Admission 4-day passes are $100. For students with ID, it is $50. There are a weekend-pass options. Teachers: There is an entire day for you.
If you’re not writing and wish you were – Go to Dodge. If you feel like everything else is going to hell but you’re writing – Go to Dodge. If you want to be reminded that poetry can and does impact the world we live in – Go to Dodge.
And if you want to meet the odd gal who has all this faith in poetry – or want to find some of that faith for yourself – Go to Dodge. See you there.