Poetry that packs a punch: Dodge presents art with a social edge, Morristown, March 23

'Poetry & Democracy' is coming to Morristown, March 23, 2019
'Poetry & Democracy' is coming to Morristown, March 23, 2019


Poetry isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it’s a mirror, an X-ray machine, a bullhorn for change. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation explores the power of poetry with a day of free presentations in Morristown, from 1 pm to 8 pm on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Venues are the Church of the Redeemer, the Mayo Performing Arts Center, the Morristown & Morris Township Library and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Here’s more from Dodge:

Dodge Poetry Program announces
“What Is It, Then, Between Us?”: Poetry & Democracy,
a free poetry event in Morristown 
Saturday, March 23, 1 to 8 p.m.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program hosts a free day of poetry, conversation, and music around the theme poetry and democracy on Saturday, March 23, in Morristown.

What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy is being held as part of the National Poetry Coalition’s annual programming initiative focused on a theme of social importance. Interactive sessions kick off at 1 p.m. with a culminating music and poetry performance at 6 p.m.

Poet Cortney Lamar Charleston. Photo by Alex Towle
Poet Cortney Lamar Charleston. Photo by Alex Towle

The day will include short readings, followed by group conversation, panel discussions, and writing activities occurring simultaneously at several venues in downtown Morristown from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Readings and discussions will focus on subjects including the justice system and voting rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration, the working poor, and race and violence.

The evening’s music and poetry performance, In Praise: A Thousand Ways to Kneel and Kiss the Earth, will celebrate gratitude across boundaries of race, creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and gender, with readings from all of the poets and music by the Parkington Sisters. It will be held 6:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Poet Rachel Wiley  at the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival. Photo by: T. Charles Erickson Photography
Poet Rachel Wiley at the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival. Photo by: T. Charles Erickson

Those interested in attending should register at dodgepoetry.org and visiting the Poetry & Democracy page. Participants will receive location details when they register, as there is limited space at several of the venues.

Poets include Janet Aalfs, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Catherine Doty, Rigoberto González, Joe Weil, and Rachel Wiley.

Representatives and members from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center also will be participating in afternoon panel discussions.


poetry and democracy poster



The Schedule

Check back for venues.

**Noon to 1 pm**


Morristown & Township Library, One Miller Road

**1:00-2:30 pm**

Ain’t I a Child?: A Conversation on Juvenile Justice

Reading & Conversation
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and Reginald Dwayne Betts

New Jersey’s Unseen: The Working Poor

Reading & Conversation
Jan Beatty, Catherine Doty and Joe Weil

Pride & Poetry: LGBTQ Rights

Reading & Conversation
Janet Aalfs, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Rachel Wiley

The Stakes of Erasure

Writing Activity
Cortney Lamar Charleston

**3:00-4:30 pm**

Borderlands: Immigrant Stories & Rights

Reading & Conversation
Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center and Rigoberto Gonzalez

The Skin That You’re Living In

Reading & Conversation
Reginald Dwayne Betts, Cortney Lamar Charleston and khalil murrell

Organize! Poetry & Activism

Reading & Conversation
Janet Aalfs, Jan Beatty, Joe Weil and Rachel Wiley

Class Dismissed

Writing Activity
Catherine Doty

**6:30-8:00 pm**

In Praise: A Hundred Ways to Kneel and Kiss the Earth

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Miller Road & Maple Avenue

Celebration, Reading & Music
Janet Aalfs, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Catherine Doty, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Joe Weil, Rachel Wiley and musicians the Parkington Sisters


About the Poets

Janet E. Aalfs, poet laureate of Northampton, MA (2003-2005), 7th degree black belt, and master Taiji/Qigong instructor, has been sharing her poetic movement weavings locally, nationally, and internationally for 40 years. Founder and director of Lotus Peace Arts at Valley Women’s Martial Arts, a non-profit school since 1977, she is dedicated to helping create sites for revelation. Recipient of the 2013 Leadership and Advocacy in the Arts Award(UMass/CWC), and prizes for her poetry, Janet practices everyday peace-building through arts activism. She has been a Dodge Festival Poet, a cultural exchange teaching artist in Cape Town, South Africa, and presenter/performer at numerous events and conferences. Her poetry is widely published in journals, anthologies, and online. Her books include Bird of a Thousand Eyes (Levellers Press), Reach (Perugia Press), and several chapbooks including Of Angels and Survivors (Two Herons Press) and Full Open (Orogeny Press).

Jan Beatty’s fifth book, Jackknife: New and Collected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press) won the 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her book, The Switching/Yard, was named by Library Journal as one of …30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry. The Huffington Post named her one of ten women writers for “required reading.” Books include Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River (Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize). Beatty worked as a waitress, welfare caseworker, and a social worker and teacher in maximum-security prisons. She directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, Madwomen in the Attic Workshops, and co-directs the MFA program.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a husband and father of two sons. A poet and memoirist, he is the author of three books. The recently published Bastards of the Reagan Era, the 2010 NAACP Image Award winning memoir, A Question of Freedom, and, the poetry collection, Shahid Reads His Own Palm. Dwayne is currently enrolled in the PhD in Law Program at the Yale Law School. He has earned a J.D. from the Yale Law School, an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College’s M.F.A. Program for Writers, and a B.A. from the University of Maryland.

Cortney Lamar Charleston’s debut collection, Telepathologies, was selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, he also won a Pushcart Prize, was a two-time finalist for The Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Granta, The Nation and many other publications. A poetry editor at The Rumpus and member of the Alice James Books editorial board, Charleston is originally from Chicagoland and now resides in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Catherine Doty is the author of Momentum, a volume of poems from CavanKerry Press, and Just Kidding, a collection of cartoons published by Avocet Press. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, among them Garrison Keillor’s More Good Poems for Hard Times and Billy Collins’s 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. She is the recipient of a Marjorie J Wilson Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and fellowships from The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Ms Doty has worked as a visiting artist for the Frost Place, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the New York Public Library, and many other organizations.

Rigoberto González is the author of 17 books, including five books of poetry. The recipient of NEA, Guggenheim, NYFA, and US Artist fellowships, he is professor of English and director of the MFA program in Creating Writing at Rutgers-Newark.

Joe Weil is an associate professor in the creative writing department at Binghamton University. For many years, he was active in New Jersey as a host of reading series at both Baron Art Center in Woodbridge and the Sumei Multidisciplinary Art Center in Newark. Weil worked with the Geraldine. R. Dodge Poetry program as a Poet in the Schools and Festival Poet, as well as in the Paterson school system and as an instructor for Arts High School in Middlesex County. He now makes his home in Binghamton, New York with his wife, poet Emily Vogel, and his two children, Gabriel and Clare. His most recent books are A Night In Duluth (2016) and The Great Grandmother Light (2013).

Rachel Wiley is a queer, biracial poet and performer from Columbus, Ohio where she somehow holds down a rather boring day job. She is an ardent and intersectional feminist and a fat positive activist. Rachel is a fellow and faculty member of the Pink Door Writing Retreat held each year in Rochester, New York for women and nonbinary writers of color. She has toured nationally performing at slam venues, colleges, and festivals. Her work has appeared on Upworthy, The Huffington Post, The Militant Baker, Everyday Feminism and PBS News Hour. Her first poetry collection, Fat Girl Finishing School, was published in 2014 by Timber Mouse Publishing. Her second collection, Nothing is Okay, was published in March 2018 by Button Poetry and spent some time as Amazon’s #1 Gay & Lesbian Poetry Collection.

The mission of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice is to empower urban residents to realize and achieve their full potential. Established in 1999 by Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein, the Institute’s dynamic and independent advocacy is aimed at toppling load-bearing walls of structural inequality to create just, vibrant, and healthy urban communities. The Institute employs a broad range of advocacy tools to advance their ambitious urban agenda, including research, analysis and writing, public education, grassroots organizing, communications, the development of pilot programs, legislative strategies, and litigation. Using a holistic approach to addressing the unique and critical issues facing New Jersey’s urban communities, the Institute advocates for systematic reform that is at once transformative, achievable in the state, and replicable in communities across the nation.

Wind of the Spirit is a faith-based organization for all immigrants and non-immigrants who are moved by the tradition of hospitality. Wind of the Spirit strives to create an environment free of discrimination and, at its core, is motivated to act by the challenges that immigrants in the United States continue to face. Wind of the Spirit works with immigrant communities to ensure their access to information that will strengthen their leadership abilities and will also allow them to realize their power as social and political actors. Wind of the Spirit currently supports communities in Morristown, Dover, Madison, the city of Orange, Wharton, East Orange, Moonachie, Ridgefield Park, and New Brunswick, in addition to advocacy on the state and federal levels. On the state level, Wind of the Spirit is a core member of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and also forms part of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Alianza Americas, an international organization fighting for the well-being of immigrants across the Americas.

“What Is It, Then, Between Us?”: Poetry & Democracy will take place at Church of the Redeemer, the Mayo Performing Arts Center, the Morristown & Morris Township Library and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Registration and check-in will occur at the library.

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