SPARTA, NJ - Twenty Sparta High School students went on a field trip to the Dodge Mini Poetry Festival at Hopatcong High School. On November 10 they joined students from Pequannock, Kittatinny Regional, High Point Regional, and Essex County West Caldwell Tech high school at the event that was part performance, part discussion.

All students had the opportunity to meet and listen to six successful and published poets. The poets present were: Khalil Murrell, John McDermott, Gretna Wilkinson, Marina Carreira, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, and Catherine Doty. Each poet read samples of their work to the audience.

“The trip allowed students to hear the voices of poets while seeing the benefits of dedicating life to creativity, craft and personal passion,” said Jamie Barker, the Sparta English and Creative Writing teacher who chaperoned the trip.

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In smaller group sessions, the poets answered questions from students. They were asked about their inspiration, structure, and personal lives. When asked to give advice to the aspiring writer, Gillan said, “Read and read and read. The more you read, the more writing will come to you.”

Sparta students Carly Marquez, Bridget Higdon, and Victoria Kish read their own poetry during the open mic session in the auditorium. They each received plenty of applause.

Molly Sullivan, a junior at SHS, said after the trip that the biggest lesson she learned was that “sometimes writer’s block is just a time to allow yourself to live, so that you can write about it later.”

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has been funding art, education, environment, and media initiatives in New Jersey since 1974, in order to promote movements for change around important issues.

“Poets eavesdrop on the secrets of the universe,” said Wilkinson in a final statement. “We write about these secrets, and we want them to be heard through poetry. We hope to touch the hearts of others.”