If the words “iambic pentameter” make you cringe, the director of the Dodge Poetry Festival has some encouragement:
Fearest thou not!
“This is not the poetry you remember from high school, if you had a bad experience,” Martin Farawell said on the eve of the 15th biennial festival, North America’s largest poetry gathering.
More than 70 poets will give readings and workshops at nine venues in Newark’s Downtown Arts District, from Oct. 23-26, 2014.
“I think the biggest surprise is how vital and accessible and moving contemporary poetry is. Put all your assumptions aside and prepare to be blown away!” said Farawell, who oversees the festival for the Morristown-based Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
(Disclosure: MorristownGreen.com is part of a Dodge Foundation initiative, the Local News Lab.)
Three former U.S. poet laureates and three Pulitzer Prize winners are on the roster. Samplers–short readings by a variety of poets–are scheduled for the morning and evening on Thursday, Oct. 23. Friday sessions will explore the boundaries between poetry and songwriting.
Works by veterans from the Warrior Writers and Combat Paper projects will be showcased on Saturday night. Sunday will include a discussion on the interplay of nature and poetry, and a tribute to Amiri Baraka by Billy Collins, Natalie Diaz, Rita Dove, Juba Dowdell, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson, Mia X and others.
THE 2014 DODGE POETRY FESTIVAL
The Dodge Foundation created the festival three decades ago at Waterloo Village after ascertaining that poetry, the world’s oldest form of literature, also receives the least funding, Farawell said.
Today, poetry is experiencing a renaissance, especially among New Jersey schoolchildren, he said. The festival also is an ideal place for adults to reconnect with the art form, he suggested.
“People forget how pleasurable it is to be read aloud to. Parents know this. Children know this,” said Farawell, a published poet and playwright involved with the Dodge Poetry Festival since 1998.
What’s unusual about this four-day event is its free-form approach, he said.
“We offer a wide ranges of voices, to be as diverse as possible. It’s not academic. It’s not professional. It’s just a celebration of poets and poetry.
“People can walk into any of these venues and be surprised, moved, delighted, shocked. These sessions will wake you up, they will make you laugh,” Farawell said.
The key to enjoying the Dodge Poetry Festival is simple, according to Farawell.
“One of the things people worry about is ‘getting it,'” he said. “They think it’s too complex, all subtle meanings and symbols. Sometimes, that’s because of the way you were taught.”
Even if you don’t get everything, he promised, you will get enough.
“It’s like the first time you hear a song. You may miss the lyrics. Yet something compels you to listen again and again.”