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Poetry Festival in New Jersey

As part of our ongoing series for National Poetry Month, we’re pleased to feature new Chang Library Graduate Assistant Alissa Renales’ remembrance of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, held annually in New Jersey! For more information on the Dodge Foundation and the festival, which is running virtually now through May 2nd, see here. Alissa attended years ago in high school and shares their reflections below.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, a multi-day celebration of poetry in New Jersey, has been happening annually since 1986. My high school’s Poetry Club had gotten permission to miss a full day of school to get on a school bus to drive several hours to attend this event. I had never seen anything like it. It was a convention of poets and writers. One portion of the day was devoted to seminars and workshops. The main event was the continual stream of poets doing readings in the auditorium. Adults got on stage and did not quietly recite their poetry but spoke it, yelled it, jumped up and down about it, and sometimes swore. One poet stood out to me specifically, Martín Espada. He walked out yelling and stamping his feet. He spoke about his past, racial injustice and colonialism, his friends, and places he had been. “Espada” is the only poem that I can remember by name from that day. The poem is the namesake of the author whose surname translates to “sword” in Spanish. After the performance I walked over and used whatever money I had in my wallet to buy his most recent book of poetry. It was from a plastic folding table with the poet standing about eight feet away. I asked him to sign it and he did. Occasionally I think back to that day, of the classes that I took and of the people that I spoke with. Participants of the Poetry Festival came from all over the country with a single goal; to listen to individuals share some portion of their world. In a time where we cannot see each other as easily poetry may be a helpful tool to navigate our emotions.

Cover artSeveral of Martín Espada‘s poems are available through the Poetry Foundation’s page. See Espada’s “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper“, a poem about changing perspectives, for an example of his work.

Find poems written by the author online in Rutgers University Libraries in this search.

Hint: look at the filters on the top left to use for your next search, too.