North America’s largest recurring poetry festival is moving to an online format for 2020.
“Because of the ongoing unpredictability of the COVID pandemic, we are moving the 2020 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival online,” festival Director Martin J. Farawell said. “We must make the choice that best protects the health of our audiences, festival poets, Dodge personnel, New Jersey Performing Arts Center staff and Newark residents who support us as volunteers and site crew.”
Details are still being ironed out, but organizers hope to begin the 16th festival on Oct. 22.
Past editions of the four-day biannual festival have drawn up to 20,000 patrons for large and small events. Some feature local or regional artists, while others have presented such celebrated voices as Allen Ginsburg, Robert Pinsky, former U.S. poet laureates Billy Collins and Robert Hass, New Jersey Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka, and Pulitzer winners Gwendolyn Brooks and Stephen Dunn.
“It’s the big one,” Collins told the Daily Record in 2006. “It’s what minor league baseball players call ‘The Show’ — that is to say the major leagues. I think it is unprecedented in size in America. And from the point of view of the poet, I suppose it’s a very heady experience to read to 3,000 people or 2,000 people rather than 200 people. …”
“As always, this 2020 Dodge Poetry Festival will celebrate the great diversity of voices that make up contemporary poetry,” Farawell said. “The Festival Poets and Academy of American Poets’ Chancellors, announced last fall, will still be joining us, and we’ll be announcing additional poets and performers over the next few months.”
Sponsored by the Morristown-based Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the festival was launched at Waterloo Village in Byram in 1986. It moved to NJPAC in 2010.
Farawell said festival organizers see the move to an online format for 2020 “as an opportunity to expand the Dodge Poetry Festival community, and provide greater access to contemporary poetry and poets.”
“As this new pandemic emerged, poets, singers, storytellers and other artists began offering their work on the internet,” he said. “As we continued to confront our chronic disease of racism, they remained our chief witnesses, advocating for what is best in us, reminding us of our capacity to be generous and just.”
The festival will be livestreamed online at no charge. On-demand performances will be available to the general public for “a nominal subscription fee,” organizers said.
Schools and teachers that register in advance will have free full access.
“Whatever savings we accrue from not producing a live festival will go toward providing some relief for COVID-19’s impact on nonprofit organizations that support poets of color, the LGBTQ community, and poets with disabilities,” Farawell said.
More information including updates will be available on the festival website.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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