For the fourth time, the largest poetry event in North America was hosted in New Jersey’s largest city when the 30th Anniversary Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival returned to Newark from Thursday, October 20th through Sunday, October 23rd. During those four days Newark’s vibrant downtown Arts District was completely be transformed into a poetry village featuring some of the most celebrated, diverse and vibrant poets and spoken word artists. English teacher Ms. Leah Umansky took a small group of just six students: seniors Dana Kornfeld, Victoria Laboz, Manny Demos, Samantha Newmark, and Joe Newman-Getzler, as well as sophomore Henry Felsman to experience the festival on Friday, October 21st.
Students had the privilege of seeing poets like Billy Collins, Jos Charles, Robin Becker, and Pulitzer Prize poet, Vijay Seshadri, among others, read their work and discuss topics in poetry like “From Homer to Hip Hop, and Poetry & Song.” For the students who attended this was both an educational and inspiration field trip, allowing them to delve deeper into the world of art, poetry and creative writing. Victoria Laboz commented on the first panel with Vijay Shesadri, Robin Becker and Jos Charles, “I also really liked the way Jos said their poetry was inspired by social media and ‘the feeds of our lives.’ I think that as times change, it is important to be sensitive to the ways contemporary literature changes as well.” There is no telling what beautiful and moving works these students will produce but one can guess that they will each be featured in this year’s edition of the school literary magazine, Genesis.
The 2016 Festival featured outstanding programming such as, intimate conversations, readings, musical collaborations and “Poets on Poetry,” in which festival poets read and discussed some of the poems and poets that have mattered to them. Some special events focused on themed readings, like “Another Kind of Courage,” a reading by war veterans and their families. Dana Kornfeld said of the experience, “My favorite panel was the last one we went to, where poems by Billy Collins and Tim Seibles were turned into songs by the Parkington Sisters. Hearing how the rhythms of how the poems were read were transferred to singing the poems was really incredible because they worked so well. I definitely learned a lot more about poems and writing, and am very happy that I was able to attend.” Everyone had a wonderful experience and they were each grateful for the opportunity to attend.