I attended the biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival this past week. It's the four-day festival that features readings and performances by renowned poets from around the world, with music, panel discussions, book signings, open readings, and a lot of other activities. It's the largest poetry gathering of its kind in North America, I'm told, and it's small wonder it's been called the "Woodstock of Poetry". (Especially one year at a one-time-only venue when it was a sea of mud!) For years it had been held in historic Waterloo Village, a rustic recreation of a 19th century town in north Jersey, but when it was resurrected from oblivion two years ago and moved to the Performing Arts Center in urban Newark, NJ, I was skeptical that it could be as successful as previous years, so I skipped it. I went this year, however, and though the ambiance of the new location is quite different, it was still a huge success. I went for only one day, which happened to be "High School Student Day", so the venues were packed. But I must say that the kids were quite well-behaved, attentive and enthusiastic, and I enjoyed the positive energy that they brought with them.
Of course I had to see my idol, Jane Hirshfield, and I got a chance to say hello to her before her evening performance. I attended both of her readings and the afternoon panel conversation in which she participated, "Finding Your Poetry", which was moderated by another poetry friend, J.C. Todd. In fact, I saw several fellow poets I know who were there as attendees or volunteers: Diane Lockward, Lois Harrod, Laura Boss, Madeline Tiger, Tony Gruenwald, Amanda Berry, and Rocky Wilson. The "famous poets" lineup was impressive as usual: I got to see the current Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway, as well as Amiri Baraka, Eavan Boland, Juan Felipe Herrera, Dorianne Laux, Rachel McKibbens, Emari DiGiorgio, Taylor Mali, Arthur Sze, Ada Limon, Joseph Millar, Terence Hayes, Fanny Howe, and Thomas Lux. I also participated in an open reading attended by about a hundred people, and I read two of my poems, "Dancing with the Muse" and "Postcard to the Ex", which got a great response. It was a long but really fine day.