The largest poetry event in North America, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, takes place at NJPAC and other Newark venues this week, Thursday through Sunday, with 70 writers reading and talking about poetry. For all the information, visit dodgepoetry.org. But here are some facts, to give you a quick overview.
1. This is the 15th Dodge Poetry Festival. It takes place every other year, and before moving to Newark in 2010, was primarily held at Waterloo Village in Byram Township.
2. The following downtown Newark venues will host festival events: NJPAC; Military Park; The Center for Arts Education (CAE Auditorium); The New Jersey Historical Society, Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral; First Peddie Baptist Memorial Church; Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art; The Newark Museum; North Star Academy.
3. The roster includes three former U.S. Poet Laureates (Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky), five Pulitzer Prize winners (Sharon Olds, Claudia Emerson, Tracy K. Smith, Gary Snyder, Yusef Komunyakaa) and Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration.
4. Snyder, 84, was associated with the Beat movement of 1950s. A friend of writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, he provided the inspiration for the main character of the 1958 Kerouac novel, “The Dharma Bums.”
5. Another featured poet, Patrick Rosal, who teaches at Rutgers-Camden, once wrote a poem called “A Very Jersey Halloween.” Read it here.
6. At noon Sunday, many of the festival’s poets will take part in a reading honoring the late Newark poet Amiri Baraka (father of Newark’s current mayor, Ras Baraka).
7. Every Dodge Poetry Festival is taped; one of the world’s greatest multimedia poetry archives is the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival Audio and Video Archive, which now has more than 2,500 hours of recordings.
8. Festival-goers can attend the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Thursday afternoon performance at NJPAC, featuring violinist Gil Shaham playing Mendelssohn, at no extra charge.
9. Most intriguing event title: “Conversation: From Homer to Hip Hop/Poetry and the Oral Tradition.” It takes place three times: 12:10 p.m. Friday with Rachel McKibbens, Aja Monet, Robert Pinsky and Kevin Young; noon Saturday with Monet, Brendan Constantine and Jamaal May; and 10:30 a.m. Sunday with May, McKibbens, Anis Mojgani and Rachel Wiley.
10. The festival has its own app, with all the information you need to get the most you can out of these four days.
Here’s a video from the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival.