Sayreville students attend Dodge Poetry Festival

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The poetry festival's pamphlet

The poetry festival's pamphlet

The poetry festival's pamphlet

Rehat Singh, Editor-in-Chief

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Any poetry addicts out there? If so, you’d feel right at home at the Dodge Poetry Festival.

Nationally known poets from all over the country gathered at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, so they could read their work in front of thousands of people from every corner of the nation.

This festival wasn’t like any other. There was a good six to seven thousand people at the event, all there to see the poets doing what they love.

It was a three-day event, and each day had its own schedule. From SWMHS, the poetry club and students from other English classes attended the festival of Friday, October 19. Lasting from 9:30 AM to well into the night, there were over 70 events that day to choose from, each event featuring a handful of well-known poets to take the lead.

During the 9 AM session, there was one event in particular that had more people than usual. The poet being featured was Sandra Cisneros, a National Endowment, National Medal of the Arts, and Chicago’s Fifth Star Award winner. A Mexican-American writer, her most well-known works include The House on Mango Street, which is a coming of age story from the perspective of a teenage Latina.

The event took place in a theater, but despite having seats for over 4,000 people, the place still managed to be overflowed with attendees. Cisneros talked in front of over 4,500 people for the event and primarily spoke about her struggles growing up, and even mentioned that she was the only girl in a family of six brothers.

In addition, many members of the audience (mostly high school students) had the opportunity to ask her questions. When asked about her inspiration for her writing, she said that the most inspiring thing for her was helping other people. “Lose yourself in the service of others,” she said while the crowd carefully listened. Just one hour wasn’t enough to get all of the questions heard, and soon, the next event had to make its way.

Equally entertaining and insightful was the 11 AM session, which included Ross Gay, Sapphire, Danez Smith, and Jenny Xie. The four sat in a row on stage, each with their work beside them so that they could read and discuss it with the audience.

Up first was Ross Gay, the author of Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down, which won the prestigious 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in poetry.

Gay went into explicit detail about “bonding” with his partner. In fact, this may have been the session that used the most profanity. However, despite his graphic detail of having sex with his boyfriend, he ended with a memorable exit, screaming to the crowd, “Be gay today people!”

Another credible poet on the stage was Ramona Lofton, well known by her pen name, Sapphire. Her most famous work was the book Push that was adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie, Precious. While she didn’t speak about her book or the movie it was adapted into, the poetry she spoke about dealt with the struggles of growing up as a black teenager in today’s day and age.

In fact, because all of the poets up on the stage were people of color, they all talked about the struggles of being “different”. One of the poets, Jeny Xiu, even talked about the odd Chinese customs she grew up with because of her mother.

There were, of course, many other sessions that had happened before, after, and during this one. The biggest downfall was that it was simply impossible to attend to all of the events.

But despite the one negative, the annual Dodge Poetry Festival that takes place in Newark, New Jersey every year, always makes the genuine effort to be as diverse as possible. It’s impossible to feel out of place at the Dodge Poetry Festival – there is something for everyone, even for those who are not as keen on poetry as others.

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