NEWARK, NJ - Livingston High School (LHS) student, Oriana Tang, one of the NJCTE High School Writing Contest Poetry Winners, read her poem at last week’s 15th biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which took place from Thursday, Oct. 23 to Sunday Oct. 26, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. In addition, LHS students attended the festival on Friday via a field trip.

The Dodge Poetry Program is committed to providing teachers and students with meaningful and relevant experiences with poetry and to encouraging the personal connection to poetry that makes students life-long readers.

During the third week of Oct., Newark’s vibrant downtown Arts District was transformed into a poetry village for the festival. The festival featured some of the most celebrated and diverse spoken word artists through readings, discussions, and conversations from over 50 internationally and nationally renowned poets. Poem themes included death, divorce, relationships childhood memories and more. Speakers included Anis Mojgani, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Eavan Boland, and Tracy K. Smith.

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The NJPAC/Prudential Hall featured hundreds of rows of seats and a bright, colorful stage, where the poets sat. All evening readings and musical performances took place there.

The festival also consisted of an assortment of programming including:

  • Poetrys on Poetry, where festival poets read and discuss poems that matter to them;
  • Poetry Samplers, which featured over two dozen poets giving brief readings that introduced a wide range of poets;
  • Conversations, in which intimate groups of Festival Poets discussed enduring themes, topical issues, and emerging questions evoked by poetry;
  • Festival Poet Readings, featuring a dynamic and diverse group of regional and national poets;
  • Evening Main Stage Readings, featuring some of the most celebrated poets writing and performing today; and
  • Poetry and music explorations and collaborations, featuring poets, musicians and dancers from a wide range of genres.

The poets began with the poetry and conversation parts, followed by Q & A sessions from the audience members. Often, there were so many people with questions, showing strong interest in the poets, that half the lines had to be cut off due to lack of time.

In Poets on Poetry sessions, Conversations on Craft, and the myriad of panel conversations on poetry, participants had the rare opportunities to visit the life behind poems.

Throughout each day of the Festival, simultaneous events took place in a variety of venues in Newark’s Downtown Arts District. Participants walked from place to place including Alijira: A Center for Contemporary Art, First Peddie Baptist Memorial Church, The Newark Museum, the New Jersey Historical Society, North Star Academy, Trinity and St. Philip’s Cathedral—and new this year, the restored public space of Military Park.

Visitors purchased published pieces by the poets featured in the festival at the bookstore. In addition, some of the poets held book signings, with lines running out the door.

“The poets spoke to the students as fellow writers, sharing not just poems but their journeys as writers,” said LHS creative writing teacher Mrs. Rothbard, who was one of the chaperones/organizers. “Their passion for what they do filled every room and was truly inspiring.”