Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dodge Poetry Festival 2010

This past weekend I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival. I was part of the staff so had several assignments throughout the three days. Not as thrilling as reading at the festival, but I had a really good time. In fact, I was rather surprised as I wasn't at all sure what the festival would be like in its new venue. In the past when I've worked at the festival, I've been provided with a hotel room, but this time, because of a tightened budget, I had to commute. I stressed over the drive and the parking for days! Needlessly. The drive was easy and the parking was a breeze. I wasn't happy about having to pay for parking, but at least I got into a lot right across the street from the NJ Performing Arts Center and even managed to get the same exact spot all three days.

I also wondered if the move from the rural setting of Waterloo Village to the urban one of downtown Newark would work. It did work. Surprisingly, the feel wasn't even urban. I felt like I was in a village. NJPAC is a beautiful building—what a dope I've been for not going there before this!—and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. Unlike at Waterloo where the various venues were spread out and a long hike was sometimes necessitated from one to the other, in Newark all the venues were within short walking distance. We were blessed with three days of the most gorgeous weather, so it was lovely walking outside.

As always happens at the festival and part of the fun, I ran into tons of people I know but never see. I also met some people I'd known by name only. Each time I went from one place to the next, I stopped and chatted several times along the way. In this new location all of the reading venues were indoors, so no stomping through mud or squishy grass as has sometimes happened at Waterloo (though with the weather this year, Waterloo would also have been lovely outdoors). And what an improvement in the bathroom situation. There were ample bathrooms in all the buildings. Any lines that developed moved quickly. The bathrooms were clean and the floors were dry.

I couldn't help but notice, though, that the number of people seemed diminished. I know some people who didn't go this time because they were reluctant to travel into the city, but the festival really wasn't in the heart of the city; it was on the very outskirts. Perhaps the attendance will pick up next time if the festival is again held in Newark. I attended only one event where the room was filled to capacity. Some of the others were generously filled but not completely. Mostly where I noticed the reduced number of people was in the Borders Book Tent. I had to pass through it—and it was huge—on my way to lunch and back. Each time the tent had merely a handful of people in it. No exaggeration.

I wish I'd taken more pictures, but here are a some that might give you a sense of the festival.

People arriving early Friday morning

Food Court early Friday morning--a great variety of food

NJ Performing Arts Center

Students gathering in front of NJPAC

Dorianne Laux reading in Trinity and St. Phillips Cathedral—one of my jobs was hosting this one

Sharon Olds in the center background

Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman and Aimee Nezhukumatathil co-reading Aimee's poem

Michael Dickman

Taalam Acey at From Homer to Hip Hop

Me with poet Madeline Tiger in the Borders Book Tent--notice the absence of book buyers
(photo by Anthony Buccino)

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  1. Hi Diane,
    I was wondering if I'd run into you....unfortunately, I didn't! As you say, the new venue worked out well, but there were so many poets missing! Do you know why? I missed Naomi Shihab Nye, Hirsch, Levine, Jane Hirshfeld, Linda Pastan, Ko Un and so many more. Was the budget responsible? I hope that the next Dodge Festival will bring them and you (reading) back! By the way, I absolutely love your new book!
    Karen Engelmeyer

  2. Diane,

    Great pics! You captured the event really well in both words and photos. I was also sad about the book tent, but perhaps they should consider a discount or a free shipping deal. I'm ordering all mine (including yours) online tonight.

    Although I missed some of the poets mentioned above, I LOVED hearing all those new voices. Those are most of the books I'm buying!

  3. Karen--I was hoping to run into you too, but I'm glad you were there. Yes, the budget was constrained. For a while, there wasn't even going to be a festival. I think there was an attempt to bring in some new voices rather than sticking with so many poets who'd been there before. I'm delighted to know you have my book! Thanks!

    Cathryn--I also think that because the tent was on the far side of NJPAC some people didn't even see it! Perhaps some signs throughout the venue would steer people over. And yes, a discount is always nice. A lot of people have to watch their pennies these days. I'm delighted to know that my book will soon be on its way to your house. Thanks!


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