April 12, 2016

Friday, September 5, 2008

Amok in Poetry I

It’s Poetry Friday. I’m getting ready for my biennial trip home to New Jersey for the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival The four-day event is at Waterloo Village in northwestern NJ. The Village is the kind of place elementary schoolers studying colonial times go on field trips. It has a church, a weaver’s hut, a blacksmith’s building along its walking paths. There are trees, sheep, and a lovely stream. The scenery is beautiful. The poetry is amazing. Even the food is great. After about an hour, you feel pulled up by Blake’s Golden Thread. A few years ago, I asked poet & children’s author Lucille Clifton what draws so many people to the festival (It’s the largest in the country, with over 60 poets reading.) She said, “Because poetry speaks to something in us that so wants to be filled. It speaks to the great hunger of the soul . . .. I think that this [event] feeds that.” Clifton has been a “Featured Poet” at every festival but the first, 1986. That was my first festival. I was 17, a high school senior and wannabe writer. I have a sensory memory of that first festival. It was a cold morning. I crowded into a little white church, sitting in the pews with my fellow high schoolers. Galway Kinnell was the reader. His deep voice resonated in the woodsy-smelling church. Sun started to shine on us from windows near the ceiling. I remember Kinnell reading his narrative poem: “The Sow Piglet’s Escape.” I had never been to a poetry reading before. It was like starting solid foods with caviar. Missed a few festivals during college, but I returned in 1994 as a first year high school English teacher, did a stint on the festival staff, and haven’t missed a Dodge weekend since. More on the poets I’ve heard and met next week. For more information on the Dodge Festival, go to this link: If you are a teacher or student, there’s still time to register for FREE attendance on 9/25 and 9/26. Those days are open to the public, as are 9/27 and 9/28.

No comments: