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October 19, 2012

Poetry Friday--The Dodge Poetry Festival

NJPAC, the site of the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival

Last weekend I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival, which was held in Newark, NJ. Need I tell you it was AWESOME?

I didn't find as much variety in the workshops and poets this year, as there was in 2010, but it was still awesome.

I took lots of notes, but, many of them are totally indecipherable! So, I'm going to pick through what I can read and give you a taste of what the poets had to say about poetry.

Eavan Boland and Henri Cole in a conversation

Boland: Similes are "like the appendixes that have lost their function."

Cole: "I adore similes."

Much of their conversation was a playful back-and-forth.

A number of the poets I saw several times over the course of three days. They were run ragged between readings, conversations, signings, etc. Boland was one poet I sought out as I greatly admire her work.

Boland signs a book I purchased from the festival bookstore

Boland recalled an editor at the Irish Times who once told her, that "only 10% of the Irish population like poetry, but 45% write it!"

One of the poems I heard Boland read at least twice was "Quarantine," a poem about the Hunger.
In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
    He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
    There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
    Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
Not all the programs were held at the beautiful NJPAC, others were held in churches, the Newark Museum, the NJ Historical Society, etc. Here's Dorianne Laux in a talk on craft, held at the First Peddie Baptist Memorial Church.

Laux: "Poetic instinct--you develop it over time by listening."

It was sometimes difficult to take my eyes off the craftsmanship evident in this old church--both the poetry and the surroundings were inspirational:

Here are a few more quotes from some of the featured poets:

Philip Levine on poems: "I came to see them as little animals. When they want your attention they bite your shin..."

Gregory Orr on poetry: "We feel it's the way language can give testimony to the human experience."

Raul Zurita: "Poems are often responses to ideas not yet formed."

I'll end with one from Nikki Finney. I plan to revisit Finney next week as I have developed a bit of a "girl crush" on her!

Finney: "We pick up the pencil one more time to try to get it right."

Irene Latham is just waiting to welcome you to the Poetry Friday Round-Up being held at Live Your Poem... Make sure to stop by!

Photos © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.


  1. Hi, Diane. I couldn't attend this year's festival. Thank you so much for sharing these observations and photos. I'd love to hear more about Nikki Finney.

  2. I couldn't attend this year, either...but thanks for the joyous highlights!

    1. Diane, I read your Lucille Clifton post first, and now I really wish I'd been there. I, too, love Eavan Boland. Yay for your signed book! And thanks for all the well chosen quotes!

  3. Thank you for sharing your quotes. I know what you mean about arriving home to find your notes are indecipherable!

  4. Thank you so much for these gems!! What a wonderful experience. I aim to get there one of these years. You have inspired me once again!

  5. I highly recommend attending the next festival if you can. It's amazing the amount of people who still believe in the power of poetry!

    The Dodge Festival is held every other year, so the next one will be in October 2014. I purchased my tickets and made hotel reservations back in August, so, if you're interested in the next one, start looking for information in, say, July 2014.

  6. This festival is on my bucket list!

  7. What else is on your bucket list? I think I should start compiling one, too.