Poets are in the spotlight again as biennial Dodge festival returns to Newark

dodge poetry '22 preview

PHOTOS BY T. CHARLES ERICKSON

Yusef Komunyakaa will read at this year’s Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

After an online festival in 2020 due to the pandemic, the 19th biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, North America’s largest poetry event, will return in person for four days of poetry readings, conversations, music collaborations and book signings at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and other venues in Downtown Newark, Oct. 20-23. More than 100 poets and musicians will participate; for the schedule of more than 120 events, some of which will be streamed online, visit DodgePoetry.org.

One of the events of the festival’s opening day, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m., will feature back-to-back readings by 23 acclaimed poets at NJPAC’s Prudential Hall. Participants will include Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. poet laureate; Pulitzer Prize winners Forrest Gander, Sharon Olds and Yusef Komunyakaa; Sandra Cisneros, Terrance Hayes and Aimee Nezhukumatahil.

Other participants, throughout the four days, will include Kim Addonizio, Ellen Bass, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Marilyn Chin, Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, Camille T. Dungy, Nikky Finney, Carolyn Forché, Major Jackson, Stephen Kuusisto, Willie Perdomo, Patrick Rosal, Tom Sleigh, Patricia Smith and Newark mayor Ras Baraka.

The New Jersey Symphony has concerts featuring music by Brahms, Strauss and Dorothy Change scheduled for Prudential Hall, Oct. 20 at 1:30 p.m. and Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. Kuusisto, Nezhukumatathil, Rosal and Smith will read poetry between concert segments, Oct. 20, and Olds, Perdomo, Rosal and Smith will do the same on Oct. 23.

SHARON OLDS

The East Coast premiere of a multimedia performance of music, poetry and film, “Endangered,” will be performed Oct. 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall. This is a song cycle by Komunyakaa and guitarist-composer Tomás Doncker, with projections by filmmaker William Murray. According to the festival website, various poets “will share poems that address the many ways we, our bodies, our identities, our society and our ecosystems are endangered, and how art itself is a necessary act for survival.”

Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens will perform before the 23-poet opening night reading, and during that event’s intermission.

Other events include a “Poetry and Song” collaboration, featuring writers and musicians, Oct. 21 at 12:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall; and “From Homer to Hip Hop: Poetry and the Oral Tradition,” Oct. 21 at 11 and 12:30 p.m. at the Newark Museum of Art’s Englehard Court and Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the auditorium of NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education. According to the festival’s description of the “Oral Tradition” sessions, “In recent decades, we’ve seen an explosion of readings and open mikes in urban, suburban and rural communities. Audio and video recordings of poems draw tens of thousands of listeners. In these sessions, poets from all schools, genres and styles are invited to read poems aloud and explore poetry as an oral/aural art.”

According to press material, topics addressed in various readings and conversations throughout the four days will include “inequity, poetry’s place in these challenging times, social justice, nature and ecology, and others … the Festival’s programming is designed so that anyone, whether they are a literary scholar, a recent discoverer of their connection to poetry or just curious to experience a live poetry reading, will feel welcomed, rewarded and engaged.”

The festival’s celebration of poetry has been called “poetry heaven” by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass and “Wordstock” by The New York Times.

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