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

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 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, North America’s largest poetry event, will return in person for four days of poetry readings, conversations, collaborations concerts and book signings at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and other locations in downtown Newark, October 20-23. More than 100 poets and musicians will participate; for the schedule of over 120 events, some of which will be streamed online, visit DodgePoetry.org.

One of the festival’s opening day events, October 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, America’s first Native American 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 on October 20 at 1:30 p.m. and October 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 presented on October 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall. It is a song cycle by Komunyakaa and guitarist-composer Tomás Doncker, with projections by filmmaker William Murray. According to the festival’s website, various poets “will share poems that will address the many ways in which we, our bodies, our identities, our society and our ecosystems are in danger, and how art itself is a necessary act of survival”.

Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens will perform before the opening night reading of 23 Poets and during the intermission of this event.

Other events include a “Poetry and Song” collaboration, featuring writers and musicians, on October 21 at 12:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall; and “From Homer to Hip-Hop: Poetry and Oral Tradition,” October 21 at 11 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Newark Museum of Art’s Englehard Court and October 21 at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education . According to the festival’s description of the “Oral Tradition” sessions, “Over the past few decades, we have seen an explosion of readings and open mics in urban, suburban and rural communities. Audio and video recordings of poems attract 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 the press material, topics covered in various readings and conversations throughout the four days will include “inequity, the place of poetry in these difficult times, social justice, nature and ecology, and others…the Festival’s lineup is designed so that anyone, whether they’re a literary scholar, a recent discoverer of their connection to poetry, or simply curious to experience a live poetry reading, will feel welcomed, rewarded and committed.

The festival’s celebration of poetry has been called a “poetry paradise” by former American Poet Laureate Robert Hass and “Wordstock” by the New York Times.

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