01.10.17

Upper Grade Students Celebrate Poetry at the Dodge Poetry Festival

Daniel Mendel
English Teacher for the Upper Grades Program, Upper Division, Avenues: The World School

Trekking out to New Jersey for the sake of poetry has become something of a fall tradition for Avenues upper grades students. On October 2, a group of 13 visited the Dodge Poetry Festival, a biennial four-day celebration of the art form in Newark, NJ. A smaller group of students attended the festival two years ago, but this year’s group had more than doubled in size, proof of Avenues students’ ever-growing interest in the written and spoken word.

Our group of poetry enthusiasts grows every year.

Our group of poetry enthusiasts grows every year.

The day was full of enlightening events including lectures, readings, and discussions hosted by poets such as Billy Collins, Robin Coste Lewis, Gary Snyder, Linda Gregerson, Rickey Laurentiis and Martín Espada. Topics included “From Homer to Hip-Hop: Poetry and the Oral Tradition,” “Poetry and Identity,” “Poetry and Storytelling” and more. In “Poetry and Song,” students were treated to an interpretive performance of Billy Collins and Tim Seibles poems by the band Parkington Sisters. The follow-up conversation was both illuminating and humorous as Collins’s dry wit and humor stole the day.

The day was full of discussions and lectures.

The day was full of discussions and lectures.

Billy Collins stole the show.

Billy Collins stole the show.

Despite an overabundance of English teachers chaperoning the trip (none of us wanted to miss out!) students found the day intellectually and emotionally freeing. “I typically don’t read a lot of poetry, but going to the Dodge Poetry Festival renewed my interest in poetry,” said junior Sophia Koock. Senior Zac Bilmen, who has visited the festival with Avenues twice now, summed up the experience best when he said, “I feel that this year’s particular festival showcased a great variety in contemporary poetic forms. I am still undecided on what it means to use tools such as technology and music in performing poetry, but the idea is now more interesting than ever, and that is definitely something that will stay with me as a poetry aficionado.”