April 12, 2016

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Amok at the Dodge Poetry Festival: Friday's Poetry Sampler Part I

There are pockets of down-time at the poetry festival. Thousands of people attend, yet you bump into friends, acquaintances, school buddies. On my way to the Poetry Sampler, I found author Lisa Greenberg. We know each other through our regional SCBWI list-serv, but had never met before. Lisa and I shared a grilled veggie wrap (delish). She told me about her work, writing children’s fiction and non-fiction about the Middle East. For about 30 years, she has lived much of the year in Saudi Arabia. We were serenaded by the musical troupe Yarina. They’ve been part of the festival for years, dance-walking throughout Waterloo Village playing panpipe, guitar and drum. The group plays indigenous music from Ecuador ( I picked up an Ecuadoran percussion instrument -- a beautifully decorated gourd with beans or pebbles inside -- for my 11-year-old drummer at home. Made a stop at the Borders tent. More on that later. Then it was on to the big tent/main stage for a two hour poetry sampler. 21 big names – each reading 1-3 poems. Alphabetical order. The sampler started with a bang. Poet/novelist Chris Abani read a poem about being beaten in his native Nigeria, where he is considered a political dissident. He’s now teaching at University of California at Riverside. Abani was funny, gracious, and powerful. The poem was deceptively simple: Reflexology Beatings: To the top of the head Elicit and idiot’s smile. To the ears and nape Affect your balance, Tipping you dangerously close to insanity. You can find the rest of the poem in the Dodge Festival Teacher Packet or Abani’s book “Kalakuta Republic.” His website is Another discovery for me was Mexican poet Coral Bracho. She and her translator read a beautiful, sensory list poem describing water. Billy Collins had a response poem to an exhibit of Greek and Roman Statuary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It focused on the absurdity of the lost limbs, noses, heads. I’ve heard Mark Doty read, “Messiah,” before. It’s a wonderful narrative poem about the power of art (Handel’s Messiah) to elevate us and create a sense of community. I love Doty’s reading style. His ennunciation makes every single word count, and builds the sense of story in this poem. We were about halfway through the sampler – that’s when the rain started pouring. This is the view from inside the tent. Coming up: Friday's Poetry Sampler Part II Jane Hirshfield, Ted Kooser, Linda Pastan and more

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