Mercy Visits the Dodge Poetry Festival
October 31, 2016
Filed under Arts
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Every other year, Newark, New Jersey, hosts the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. The Festival, held every other year since 1986, has always had a high school day. This is the day when high school students from states as far as Florida come to hear poetry from some of the best poets of this age. Mercy takes a group of girls from the Writing Workshop co-curricular to this event whenever scheduling permits. This year, a group of ten girls along with the English Department were able to attend. The group consisted of freshmen Blen Mulugeta and Elena Schutz, sophomore Clara Langan, juniors Kyra Smith, Rebekah Hackett, and Jessica Borne, and seniors Grace Rappazzo, Ashley Wagner, Katarina Russell, and Alexandra Lichtner.
The girls arrived at Mercy the morning of Friday, October 21, bright eyed and not so bushy tailed at six am. The three-hour bus ride consisted mostly of the Hamilton soundtrack and lots of sleep.
Arriving to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) at around 9:45 am, students and teachers entered the main hall and listened to poets Billy Collins and Rickey Laurentiis share their work. Junior Jessica Borne says, “I admired Rickey Laurentiis. Through all the hardships he went through during Hurricane Katrina, he now has found his inspiration to write”
At the end of that session, the group stayed in Prudential Hall and attended “From Homer to Hip-Hop: Poetry and the Oral Tradition” with poets Martín Espada, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and Gary Snyder. Senior Alexandra Lichtner has this to say about the session: “I was introduced to many new poets, my favorites of which were Martín Espada and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Their poems have a musical quality about them and each poet sang parts of his or her poems. I am glad I was able to go on this trip my senior year.”
After a short lunch break, the group attended a reading with poets Marilyn Chin, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and Gary Snyder (yes, the same Gary Snyder that the group had previously walked out on). Sophomore Clara Langan said that “I like Honorée Fanonne Jeffers because her poems were educational and talked about real issues, as well as the fact that she read beautifully.” The main muse for Jeffers is Phillis Wheatley, since she is the first recorded published black author. Freshman Elena Schultz also loved Jeffers because “the way she spoke and expressed herself was done beautifully. Her poems were very inspirational, and some of my favorite poems were written by her.”
At the end of the session, the group ventured out of NJPAC and walked over to Trinity & St. Phillips Cathedral to hear the works of Sam Sax, Fatimah Asghar, and Naomi Extra. Junior Kyra Smith says that her favorite poet of the day was “Sam Sax…I really admire his openness and willingness to share because you can’t be a good artist unless you’re willing to share yourself and not hold back.”
After this session ended, the group walked back to the bus, chattering about the different poets heard that day. The three-hour bus ride back consisted of reflection, sleep, and an impromptu karaoke session consisting of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Hamilton soundtrack, and Panic! At The Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor.”
Senior Grace Rapazzo says that she “was impressed by every guest’s skill in the written word, and I learned a lot about writing through the many Q&A sessions.” Senior Ashley Wagner said that “I’ve never heard so many unique perspectives on the human existence, especially all in one sitting. I am grateful for the opportunity and I hope to be graced with more like it in the future.” Senior Katarina Russell says that “the festival was a really great experience. I loved being able to see how different all the poets were and hearing what professional sound and write like in their poetry. This festival opened my eyes on just how expansive poetry can be.” Freshman Blen Mulugeta said that “going to the festival has opened my eyes to different perspectives and feelings about poetry.”
Ms. Kitty Yanson’s Digital Writing and Publication class took a look at some of the poets and their poems before the festival and wrote pieces that drew inspiration from a certain piece. Holly Bergman wrote a piece entitled “The Issue” in response to “Seventeen Magazine” by Ellen Hagan and Katarina Russell wrote a piece entitled “Falling in Love” in response to Billy Collins’ “Aimless Love.” These poems can be found at: