Many of nation’s greatest poets converge in Newark for Dodge Poetry Festival

The Dodge Poetry Festival takes place in Newark, Oct. 20-23.

The Dodge Poetry Festival takes place in Newark, Oct. 20-23.

On its web site, this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival — which takes place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and other Newark venues from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23 — has been running interviews with some of the poets who will be participating. Among them is Aaron Smith, who effectively sums up why the festival is particularly important in this moment of history.

“In a century where everything moves quickly,” he says, “poetry reminds me to engage deeply, to linger with text to discover everything it has to offer. Having spent most of my life looking for the right word, the right line break, I’ve learned the importance of how what we say matters and lives inside people. Poetry is the opposite of sound bites, tweets, and talking points. I believe when we spend time engaging deeply with words and ideas that we are studying compassion. If we need anything in the twenty first century, it’s compassion.”

The festival, which takes place every other year (and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year), will feature more than 60 poets, in about about 150 readings and discussions. The lineup will include U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera; former U.S. poet laureates Billy Collins and Robert Hass; Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder; and Elizabeth Alexander, the inaugural poet at President Obama’s first inauguration; and recent MacArthur Fellowship winner Claudia Rankine.

Events scheduled throughout the four days include “Poetry Samplers” (featuring many of the poets, in short readings) and discussions on “From Homer to Hip Hop: Poetry and the Oral Tradition” (the evolution of poetry from ancient times to modern poetry slams and open mikes), “Poetry and Pride” (exploring the contributions of the LGBTQ community to poetry), “The Work to be Done: Poetry and Social Justice,” “Washing in Clear Water: Asian Poetry in America,” “Poetry Like Bread: Poems of Social and Political Consciousness,” “Our House: Eco-Poetry and the Earth,” “I Too Sing America: Poetry and Race” and a tribute to the late poet Galway Kinnell.

And for the first time, the Poets Forum of the Academy of American Poets — a series of readings and conversations traditionally held in New York — will take place in Newark, in conjunction with the festival.

For the complete lineup, program, ticket information and more, visit

Here are some videos from past festivals; all three poets are reading this year, as well.


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