Dodge for Beginners
Today is the gloomiest day of the week, weather-wise. But tomorrow, the sun shines over Newark as I make my way to the Dodge Poetry Festival!
No big tents with hundreds of folks crammed to hear poetry—I’m going to miss that. Yet this year’s Dodge, held at the New Jersey Performance Arts Center, promises to be the most urban of Dodge Festivals yet.
I’m already thinking about getting together with friends and colleagues in the poetry community. Yes, I’m thinking about my blog posts, photos, and video clips. I’m thinking about a long weekend of adult conversations with no kids. And a hotel with an indoor pool!
I’ve attended the last five festivals, so I consider myself a bit of an expert getting around Dodge. Culled from my archives, here’s an updated version of how to navigate the Dodge Festival in all its splendor.
- Have fun! This is the largest poetry festival in North America—bar none—with people just like you who want to talk poetry for four days straight. When does that ever happen? Every two years.
Support emerging poets. I’m referring to poets who have yet to publish a book, or who have one or two books and are on the fringes of greatness.
- Tell the poet how much you enjoyed his or her reading. I don’t care how far up the food chain a poet gets, he or she will appreciate the complement.
- Buy a poetry book. Buy two—they’re small. It’s important to support the community, so don’t be cheap. And, if you feel so moved, have it autographed. HOWEVER …
- Don’t bring every book written by your favorite poet to have signed. It is tacky tacky tacky and annoying! We know you’re going to sell them on eBay anyway.
- Talk to other poets. See #1 for details.
- Read your own work. I’m guessing that microphones will be set up all over the place. Why not read a poem—your best poem. But don’t overdue it. Always leave the crowds wanting more.
- Take part in the discussions. Participate in the Q&A’s with your favorite poets. Get to the venues early because the good seats go quickly.
- Mute your cell phones. Is there anything more annoying than hearing a Lady Gaga ring tone at a reading?
- And if it rains, suck it up. Hope for better weather in 2012. You’re at Dodge—in Newark—for heaven’s sake! You're not at work. You're not at home. Seriously, it's all good.