There was no shortage of creativity at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival 30th anniversary this past weekend. The four-day event dominated Newark’s Downtown Arts District where writers, poets and other intellectuals gathered to hear some of their favorite poets both recite their works and discuss the craft.

The festival, which has been around since 1986, found its home at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) again this year. From Thursday, October 20 until Sunday, October 23, dozens of published poets came out to support the art form they love so much.

Guests packed the NJPAC’s Victoria Theater and Prudential Hall for more than 50 different events that featured readings and discussions with some of the country’s most celebrated poets. First Peddie Baptist Memorial Church, Military Park, the Newark Museum, North Star Auditorium, St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral and Trinity & St. Philip’s Cathedral also served as venues over the weekend. Writers like Billy Collins, Katha Pollitt, Robert Hass, Jane Hirshfield and Gary Snyder captivated audiences by delivering engaging speeches, providing valuable advice to aspiring writers and, of course, reading their own original poems.

The event offered a diverse schedule, presenting panels on writing, humor, music, peace and even yoga and Tai Chi. Speakers delved into the complex and emotional world of poetry that spreads over a vast number of topics. They provided insight into the craft to aid writers, young and old, who use the rhythmic art form as a way of personal—or public—expression.

Claudia Rankine, Marilyn Chin, Juan Felipe, Vijay Seshadri and Brenda Hillman
Claudia Rankine, Marilyn Chin, Juan Felipe, Vijay Seshadri and Brenda Hillman

Following their presentations, many of the event’s speakers were elated to meet with and sign autographs for their countless admirers. The NJPAC housed a mini Barnes & Noble-sponsored poetry bookstore where fans could purchase their favorite poets’ works.

Each day of the festival also offered open readings for any individual interested in showcasing their original works. Poets lined up to present their unique verses while expressing their feelings, concerns, likes and dislikes.

Dodge Poetry Festival

“I’ve gone to the festival every year since the first,” said published writer and Rider University professor Roberta Clipper. “The festival is inspirational, and the Newark venue gets better every year.”

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival recognizes the importance of this medium in our society and celebrates it biennially in the Garden State. Students, teachers, poets and numerous other individuals take advantage of the event’s contributions and accessibility each year.