Ask a Poet: Raymond Luczak

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Welcome to the Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re getting to know Raymond Luczak!


Luczak

Hey! What’s new with you?
2018 has proven to be an extraordinary year. It’s not often that I’d get to see three new books (a short story collection, a novella, and a poetry collection) published in a single year, but these days I’m most excited about my seventh poetry title A Babble of Objects. Usually, when I create a new book of poems, I try to challenge myself by not falling into the trap of repeating myself when it comes to subject matter or approach. This time, with A Babble of Objects, I decided to focus on the inner lives of inanimate objects and keeping such interior monologues quite short. Then with the rewrite, I decided to play with the look of many of the poems. For example, in the poem “Glue,” I reduced the spacing between lines so severely that the lines look like they’re nearly glued together. Another poem “Threads” plays with each line as if a loose thread gone astray across the page; the poem “Scalpel in Biology” shows the incision cutting right through its lines. In essence, my book becomes a visual atlas of these nameless characters. Just like Madonna who is constantly reinventing herself with each new album, I had a blast reinventing myself as a poet with A Babble of Objects.

What are you currently reading?
Through reading submissions for a Walt Whitman poetry tribute anthology that I’ve been editing, I happened to come across the work of Cyril Wong, a Singaporean poet who happens to be wildly prolific. His submission was so good that I had to hunt down his books; his work is unfortunately not widely available in the United States. He is regarded as Singapore’s first truly confessional poet, but his work easily transcends the tired clichés of confessional poetry. His latest collection The Lover’s Inventory (Math Paper Press, 2015) is wonderful.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
I love performing my poems in American Sign Language (ASL) because it forces me to see my own work in a whole new light when I translate it for performance. Often I discover things I hadn’t realized that had been there all along!

What is something miscellaneous from your life that you would recommend to other people? It could be a person, a habit, an idea, anything that brings you happiness right now that you would like to recommend.
We need to relearn again the art of appreciating each simple pleasure we are given at any given time. For instance, if we happen on a startlingly beautiful flower in full bloom, its color bursting from the kisses of the sun, we shouldn’t simply take a picture of it with our smartphones and move on. No, we should stop and really look at the flower. That flower is not going to live long, so we need to appreciate its majesty while we can. So much of life is ephemeral so this is why I’m a poet. I write because I don’t want to lose that art of appreciating the amazing world around us to which no one seems to pay attention. So: if you see something odd and startling, stop. That moment is not going to come back again, so stop. Try not to think of anything but the sight right before you. It doesn’t have to be a visual thing; it can be the sweet fragrance of a lilac in full flower, its waft being carried past you on the breeze. And it doesn’t have to be flowers either. It can be the person you love the most. Just say nothing for a moment and look at their faces fully. Let the memory be imprinted on your brain, and it will never leave you. Even if you never write a poem, that act of imprinting the impression makes you a poet not of words but of memory.


Raymond Luczak lost much of his hearing at the age of eight months and grew up in a hearing family of nine children in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He was not allowed to sign until he was 14 years old. He graduated with the legendary Class of ’88 from Gallaudet University. Luczak is the author and editor of over 20 books. Poetry titles include The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My LipsMute, and How to Kill Poetry. His Deaf gay novel Men with Their Hands won first place in the Project: QueerLit Contest 2006. Red Hen Press will bring out his next book Flannelwood in the spring of 2019. His work has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Also a playwright, he lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [raymondluczak.com]  


 

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Poetry Friday: What’s New with the Dodge Poetry Festival

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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We know that when you’re planning a trip to the Festival, there are a lot of logistics to keep in mind and things to know! We always want to keep you up to date with the exciting news and opportunities, so here are some of the latest resources and announcements we have made about #DPF18, all in one place:

  • Wondering which day your favorite poet will be at the Festival? Check out our brand new Poet Calendar, which indicates which days each poet will be performing in Downtown Newark.
  • Have you taken a look at the full Festival Lineup? You can find links about each individual poet when you click on their names for more information, and we will have biographic information up on our website very soon! We hope you’re as excited about this lineup as we are!
  • Along the lines of getting to know our poets, be sure to visit our Ask a Poet blog series! It’s a great way to get acquainted with some of the poets you will see at the Festival!
  • Interested in Teacher Day, Thursday, October 18th? It’s not too late to register for this fun day of poetry designed for educators. Pre-registered teachers can attend at no charge! Don’t miss it!
  • A great way to keep up on Festival announcements is by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! We are providing new announcements and information all the time, and we love to hear from you.
  • Do you have your tickets yet? Weekend and Four-Day Passes are on sale now! We have discounts for teachers, students, Newark-residents, seniors and college students.
  • We’ve got special hotel rates for you, but book soon! Blocks are filling up fast.
  • If you’re coming from NYC or NJ, get your $10.50 round-trip NJ TRANSIT tickets to Newark Penn, from any NJ TRANSIT station or NY Penn.
  • Taking a car to the Festival? Get $5 off of LYFT rides with the code NJPAC, or drive yourself and get discounted parking rates right near NJPAC for single-day parking when you buy in advance. (Weekend & Four-Day parking passes coming soon!)

There will be more to come in the months ahead, so stay tuned!

Questions about the Festival? Is there something you’d like to see here that we haven’t included? Feel free to shoot us an email at festival@grdodge.org!


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Dodge Q&A: Chris Daggett answers grantee questions about Dodge’s strategic plan

Posted on by Meghan Jambor

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Imagine a New Jersey where all people regardless of their zip code have access to quality schools, to the arts, to a healthy environment, to trustworthy news and information, and where all citizens have voice and influence to make change in their community.

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most segregated. Too many people still live in the shadows, are fearful when they see a police officer, or worry about being able to put food on the table.

These problems are decades in the making, and it will take decades to fix them.

The time to start is now.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation held a webinar on June 12 for grantees on its new direction toward an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities hosted by President and CEO Chris Daggett.

Watch the webinar below or scroll down for a summary: 

Dodge Strategic Plan Grantee Call from dodgefoundation on Vimeo.

“We at Dodge are committed deeply to New Jersey,” Daggett said. “With our resources at Dodge, our goal is to make people aware of these issues and to provide the support to the nonprofit organizations and the individuals who are part of those organizations to move the needle to improve the state of New Jersey.”

Daggett shared changes to Dodge’s vision, mission, and values, and its new goals and definition of equity, as well as insights into the process. In a May 22 announcement, Daggett outlined the changes and the story behind the plan.

Through the end of the year, the Foundation will be developing an equity framework from which to view its five program areas — arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry. Grantmaking will continue under its current guidelines for the remainder of 2018 and in 2019, when it expects to experiment with new ideas as it develops strategies to debut in 2020.

After answering participants questions, Daggett invited people to share feedback through email to Dodge program officers or listening@grdodge.org. The Foundation is seeking your ideas on questions such as: What is your response to our new vision and mission, and what might that look like in your work? What changes in our/your practices might help you advance these elements in your work? What are your concerns and questions about this new direction? How might Dodge lean into our new vision?

Below are some of the questions and answers covered in the webinar (with minor edits to the transcript). The Q&A session begins at approximately 12:15 in the video recording.

How is this new vision and mission different from what Dodge is already doing?

Chris Daggett: Acknowledging the demographics of New Jersey and recognizing issues of the times, we are trying to figure out how best to position ourselves as an organization. We have chosen to focus on equity and an equitable New Jersey, and it is through this lens that we will be looking at our program areas to determine what shifts, if any, we should make. Initially, we will stay the current course. As we continue to review our work and get additional input, we will be making some changes.

What might these changes mean for current grantees?

This year, no changes. You may see changes and adjustments in the amount of money we give to organizations next year, and perhaps some other shifts. If so, we will make them with respect and with the same approach we’ve taken historically at Dodge. We’ve never made dramatic changes, we try to make them in a way that is respectful to the organizations as well as our own work.

Can you share the names of the consultants Dodge worked with?

For intercultural awareness learning, we worked with Beth Zemsky and Associates. For the strategic plan, we worked with the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

Regarding the program goal, what does it mean that a “majority” of Dodge resources will benefit under-resourced communities?

We don’t know the answer to that question right now. We are in the process of looking at what it means. We want to make sure we use our resources in a way that best benefits the state. Our focus historically has included under-resourced areas, and we will probably continue to do that work. What that means for a particular location, program area, or grantee will evolve over the next year.

Do you have any interests in specific communities?

Not at this time. We’ve been awarding grants statewide and I expect we will continue to do so.

What role do you see grantees playing?

We welcome input from everybody at any point. The best way to provide that input is through your program officers. We likely will use additional questionnaires and formally reach out to people.

Do you anticipate any major changes in the mechanics of grant submission – letters of inquiry, full grant applications, communication with program officers, and/or separate deadlines for the various program areas, etc? Will organizations’ budget size play a role (i.e., might you be supporting more grassroots organizations)?

We are on the verge of changing to a new grants management system. With that, we are hoping that change will make applying and communicating easier.

We will be reviewing all our processes through an equity lens. There may be changes to those processes, and to the types of organizations we support. Traditionally, we ask nonprofits for their certified audit and about their board giving, that might not always be the case. It’s too early to say how they will change.

Do you anticipate that you will open the grants process to nonprofits that aren’t current grantees?

We may, but we will probably keep the letter of inquiry process narrow to our areas of focus. There likely will be a more open process in 2020.

Have you thought about how Dodge will measure its success in improving equity? Do you have any early thoughts?

It will go beyond diversity and numbers. It’s looking at outcomes. We want to get feedback from our stakeholders to ask about measurements that matter to them. We recognize that a plan is just that–a plan, just words on paper. We know that there is a lot of work ahead to realize this vision, and we need to get feedback from all our constituents–both now and as we go forward.

How might Dodge’s Technical Assistance change?

We will continue to do much of the Technical Assistance we have done in our Board Leadership program. We want to add equity, diversity, and inclusion, to help organizations recognize where they are in their own development. We want to hear what kinds of support organizations want. That will enable to help us shape programs.

Will Dodge be doing more collaborating with other funders in New Jersey?

We hope so. We constantly tell grantees they ought to collaborate more. The same is true for foundations. We don’t do it nearly as much as we should.

How does this new mission affect your staffing within Dodge to make sure Dodge is embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion?

We will be looking at all our internal operations — how do we hire, onboard people, shift our organizational culture. The way we hire people and the nature and makeup of our staff has be responsive to that, as well. Over time, as people move on and do other things, we will make every attempt to reflect the diversity of the state.

Has the search for a new leader at Dodge begun?

The Dodge Board will be developing the process. I anticipate they will have a search firm retained that will interview staff, board, and outside folks, to hear what people think are the most important characteristics of a new CEO for Dodge at this point in its lifecycle. Stay tuned; the process will become clear as the summer goes on.

What are the immediate next steps for carrying the strategic plan forward?

Over the summer, we will continue our intercultural development work. We also will start to develop a framework to view our program areas through an equity lens — a Theory of Change, essentially. We hope to have a lot of that work completed by the end of the year so we can experiment with new ideas next year.

 

 

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Ask a Poet: Aaron Coleman

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Welcome to the Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re talking with Aaron Coleman!


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When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
The first poem that really made me want to be a poet was Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B.” I think I was about 16 years old. Hughes’ poem was so plainspoken and yet so musical and, most importantly, emotionally nuanced. I saw something of myself in the young man who is the speaker in the poem, how he was reconciling race and the city and love and his dreams. Before, during, and after discovering that poem, I was listening to André 3000’s album “The Love Below” and the brilliance of his lyrics and the radical creativity of the album – the way it defied any genre labels – opened up my idea of what a black artist could create. Together, Hughes and André 3K got me writing. I wanted to create worlds out of words like they did. And I hoped that I could write something that might move someone the way that their work moved me. I remember being stunned by the fact that their work could feel so personal and so important to me, especially as a young black kid, and yet they had no idea who I was, and they’d never know that I was reading or listening to them! I felt inspired to write because it felt so uniquely powerful, and full of a subtle faith: “just maybe, these words will be of real use to some other person in my lifetime or long after it.” That kind of realization still kind of blows me away.

What was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?
I’m so glad you asked this question. In high school I played football, basketball, and track (discus and shotput to be specific), and it took a while for me to really realize that poetry was something that I could use as a tool for self-expression and connection with my local community. There can sometimes be a lot of pressure on teens to focus on one kind of extracurricular, especially as a young black man, and I think that led to me drifting away from reading, choir, and theatre because I wanted to really be the best athlete I could be. But I’m so glad that I found my way back to poetry, first through Hip Hop (Outkast, The Roots, and Mos Def were everything to me at 16) and then through a book report I had to write on the novel Invisible Man. I actually thought I was picking the sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells but, luckily, I was mistaken. Reading Ralph Ellison during my senior year changed everything for me. To know that black people, and black men, could write about their lives and express how they felt about race, class, desire, fear, loneliness, intimacy, family, love…that book let me know that it was not only okay that I felt complex emotions – it was important that I felt them. It proved to me how valuable and powerful it is to share those emotions and insights with other people. I was introduced to A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and read some of Langston Hughes, but Invisible Man was the book that really changed things for me. I think my poems as a teen were about dealing with the changes I felt as I moved away from childhood and into young adulthood. I was trying to figure out how to think for myself, how to deal with the expectations of others, and how to decide on the expectations I had for myself. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, with family ties to the city (especially via Church every Sunday) so I always felt like I was kind of in between worlds. One of my best friends in high school was an aspiring film maker – he just loved movies – and so we’d watch all kinds of films (blockbusters and indie stuff) and just talk about ‘life,’ I suppose. We were earnest. And you know, I think that was a good thing. I also want to add that, even though my poems have evolved so much over the years, I have a lot of empathy for the big ideas and the emotional desperateness that fueled those first poems. If I can dare to offer some advice: whatever you’re writing – just keep writing! And keep reading! And let yourself grow.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
I’m really excited for the unique community that the Dodge Poetry Festival brings together. I think we need more and more creative intersections for people of all ages, educators of all levels, and poets of all kinds. I’m excited to spend time attending readings by poets I admire, and to meet young people who are just finding their way into poetry. My first full-length book, Threat Come Close, just came out with Four Way Books earlier this year, so I’m really thrilled to get to share not just the poems but the process of creating a book as young(ish) poet. I’m also really interested in the translation of poetry (especially from Spanish) so I’m hoping to connect with other people who are interested in poetry, translation, and the wild possibilities of writing across languages.

What is something miscellaneous from your life that you would recommend to other people? It could be a person, a habit, an idea, anything that brings you happiness right now that you would like to recommend.
I think two random things that are really working well for me right now are taking long walks and caring for some amazing house plants. Very simple things, I know, but each of these is so grounding in the midst of the stress of the day-to-day. Just getting outside and walking through Saint Louis – its parks, its old neighborhoods, and its new, evolving ones – lets my mind start to wander in a way that relieves my stress and sparks my imagination. There’s something about the pace of walking and just setting out to follow your curiosity with no destination in mind – it feels freeing. And it fuels my curiosity to see the differences along streets and neighborhoods, to notice the sounds and weather at different times of day – it really makes this city feel more and more like home. And my plants are so great just because they’ve taught me to slow down and pay attention in new ways. We all spend so much time looking at screens, but noticing how my different house plants change – giant aloe veras and tiny jades and everything leafy in between – is so subtle yet so amazing. It’s comforting to have so much living green around me even when I’m inside. They grow and move (slower than we humans are used to noticing) depending on light and water, not to mention how they adjust to the changing seasons. Spring blossoming is an event! The flowers and new leaves always catch me off guard. A mentor of mine has a houseplant that was her grandmother’s and my first plants were from the funeral of my grandmother; I just love that gentle reminder and connection. Also, when my friends have moved away, they’ve left some of their plants with me – so each plant is full of so many memories, even as they continue to transform and grow. They’re the perfect low-maintenance roommate.


Aaron Coleman is the author of Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) and the chapbook St. Trigger, selected by Adrian Matejka for the 2015 Button Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow from Metro-Detroit, Aaron has lived and worked with youth in locations including Spain, South Africa, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kalamazoo. Aaron’s poems have appeared in journals including Boston Review, FENCE, and New York Times Magazine. As a poet and translator from Spanish, Aaron has received awards including the American Literary Translators Association’s Jansen Memorial Fellowship, the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest, and the Cincinnati Review Schiff Award. Aaron is currently a PhD student at Washington University St. Louis, studying 20th Century literature of the African Diaspora and Translation Studies in the Comparative Literature Program’s International Writers’ Track.


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Sustainable Jersey: Creating a place, rather than a design

Posted on by Sustainable Jersey

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Morristown and Asbury Park implement complete streets

As summer begins in New Jersey, you may find yourself visiting one of the hundreds of communities in the state that have adopted or implemented policies promoting complete streets. Complete streets make it easy to cross the street, drive your car, walk to shops, bicycle to work and access buses or train stations, no matter your age or ability.

North Jersey Municipalities Encouraged to Take Action on Complete Streets-Related Solutions

While New Jersey leads the nation in the number of complete streets policies adopted, it continues to lag behind in overall complete streets implementation. Sustainable Jersey, the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Together North Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Transportation are collaborating to provide free trainings and technical assistance to advance complete streets implementation at the local level.

One of the key barriers to implementing complete streets is that it requires a lot of special knowledge, skills and resources for municipalities to develop complete streets-related solutions. The goal of this effort is to assist communities in implementing complete streets at the local level.

The coordinated effort includes both free training and free technical assistance. The day-long training workshop is offered on two days: June 26 in Newark and June 27 in New Brunswick. The training is open to anyone interested in complete streets, including municipal officials, staff and the public. Although there is no charge to attend the workshop, advance registration is required.

The complete streets technical assistance program will support municipal government efforts to implement complete streets in nine municipalities.  Selected participants will receive direct technical assistance to complete a specific project related to advancing a complete streets initiative in their communities. To be eligible to participate in this program, an applicant must be a municipal government in the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority region comprised of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties. Applications must be submitted using the online application portal by July 27, 2018.

Sustainable Jersey Certified Towns Adopt Complete Streets Policy
Many of Sustainable Jersey’s certified towns have adopted a complete streets policy. Both, Sustainable Jersey silver-certified Morristown, in Morris County, and bronze-certified Asbury Park, located in Monmouth County, have received recognition for their accomplishments. In 2017, the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, gave Morristown a Complete Streets Excellence Award and Asbury Park a Complete Streets Champion Award.

Morristown Implements Complete Streets Checklist

MorristoSJStreets1wn was the first municipality in New Jersey to implement a complete streets checklist to guide all of the new development projects. In addition to a variety of off-road, multi-use trails such as Patriot’s Path, Morristown has provided right-of-way access to bicyclists by means of sharrows (a shared-lane marking for bikes and vehicles) and signage declaring “Bicycle May Use Full Lane.” Additionally, Morristown’s Complete Streets projects offer wide sidewalks for pedestrians, ADA compliant ramps, parallel parking in both directions as a means of slowing traffic and providing a buffer for pedestrians and transit access.

Morristown is located at the crossroads of major regional transportation corridors, including an interstate highway, significant state and county roadways and commuter rail to New York City. The community understood that although these networks are at the core of the town’s economic and social potential for success, they have also facilitated development patterns that revolve around the car, and, if left unchecked, could serve to undermine the small town urban character.

SJPicture2Traditionally, municipal transportation plans describe and make recommendations for improving vehicular traffic while treating transit, cycling and walking as secondary concerns. Morristown decided to link its land use planning to its transportation plan. The program was different because it struck a balance among all modes. The goals are oriented towards complete, pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, accessible and convenient public transit, minimizing negative impacts of traffic on local and regional highways and parking that supports walkability, transit ridership and sustainable development. Morristown’s 2014 Master Plan, called “Morristown Moving Forward, A Mobility and Community Form Plan,” lays the foundation for implementation strategies and additional goals.

The Morristown Bicycle Plan was completed in conjunction with Morristown’s Environmental Commission and the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The Township adopted the plan that is based on findings from a commissioned study that assessed bicycle compatibility of roadways and intersections using New Jersey Department of Transportation guidelines, an analysis of reported bicycle crashes and the identification of regional and local bicycle facilities and trip generators. The vision of the plan is to develop an easily accessible bicycle transportation system that will enhance mobility for residents and visitors, connecting them to an array of area resources

Like the Morristown Master Plan, the Morristown Bicycle Plan included the public in the planning and decision-making process. The process was two-fold, beginning with the creation of a steering committee and proceeding with public surveys, public reviews and multiple workshops. Finally, Morristown’s Bicycle Plan was crafted with the goal of compatibility in mind; to merge with existing State and local bicycle plans to integrate resources and promote trail development. With the help of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, work is continuing to improve pedestrian and bike connections between neighborhoods and to local parks and public places, as well as formalize connections to other pedestrian and bike trails linking Morristown to destinations within the region.

Asbury Park Complete Streets

SJStreets4The City of Asbury Park enhanced its mobility plan through its 2017 Master Plan & Master Plan Reexamination Report. The plan reaffirmed the need for additional pedestrian and bicycle routes and implementation of traffic-calming strategies. It also identified the need to facilitate motorist awareness of pedestrians and cyclists through an increase in signage and lights.

City efforts to improve the streets throughout Asbury Park are well underway and are supported by an active Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition. Crosswalks and traffic signals have already been improved. Asbury Park is developing a bike and pedestrian safety plan. The city is installing electric vehicle charging stations in various locations and will shortly begin designing a wayfinding signage system for both cars and pedestrians. Asbury Park contracted with Zagster to operate a bike-share program that allows residents to rent bicycles located at convenient locations.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation is currently reconstructing Main Street (State Route 71) in Asbury Park as a complete street – a project that has been over a decade in the making. This project will transform Main Street from a through corridor that was primarily designed to move cars, to a safe and inviting corridor for all users that better supports business development along Main Street and helps to unite the city’s east and west sides.

Although Main Street is a through street that connects Asbury Park with neighboring towns and provides beach access for motorists, it functions as a neighborhood shopping district that will benefit from an enhanced bicycle and pedestrian friendly environment. When finished, features will include a reduction from four vehicle travel lanes to two, new left turn lanes, new crosswalks and bike lanes and enhanced signaling to prevent backups during the busy summer months. The city will be installing new street trees, benches and bike racks through a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

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Ask a Poet: Rachel Wiley

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Welcome to the Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re chatting with Rachel Wiley!


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What books of poetry/poets do you recommend to a new reader of poems?
Rachel McKibbens, Sharon Olds, Hieu Nguyen, Sam Sax, Franny Choi, A. Van Jordan, Jericho Brown, Mahogany L Browne.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
When I was a kid – maybe 3rd grade – I found a book in the school library called Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield and I fell in love with the rhythm of the poems and the way someone could say so much with so few words. I started writing secret poetry around then and continued that practice into my 20’s.

What was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?
We sadly did not explore a lot of poetry in high school. I stumbled upon Sylvia Plath on my own and was still writing secret poems – once I discovered Sylvia Plath’s work I felt I had permission to write the angstier feelings I was having as a young woman trying to figure out what was ahead of me.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
It always baffles me when someone says “…so do a poem!” It’s not an on/off switch – no one asks a painter to paint on the spot. Also being a poet with videos on YouTube I get recognized in public sometimes and that is never not weird. It’s really cool but it’s also
just weird. I’ve been recognized while out on dates and once while stuffing a burrito into my mouth at a food truck.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
I am always afraid to share what I write. The more scared I am the more I likely need to write and share it.

Do you have a favorite Festival moment from the past?
My first Dodge festival was in 2014 and it was overwhelming in the best possible way. The whole experience will likely remain one of my favorite lifetime memories. If I had to choose 1 major highlight though it would be the Women in Poetry panels I got to be part of first with Rachel McKibbens and Jan Beatty and the second with Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Sharon Olds, and Eavan Boland- those were empowering panels. I was in awe and honored to be part of them but I also felt like I belonged there.


Rachel Wiley is a queer, biracial poet and performer from Columbus, Ohio where she somehow holds down a rather boring day job. She is an ardent and intersectional feminist and a fat positive activist. Rachel is a fellow and faculty member of the Pink Door Writing Retreat held each year in Rochester, New York for women and nonbinary writers of color. She has toured nationally performing at slam venues, colleges, and festivals. Her work has appeared on Upworthy, The Huffington Post, The Militant Baker, Everyday Feminism and PBS News Hour. Her first poetry collection, Fat Girl Finishing School, was published in 2014 by Timber Mouse Publishing. Her second collection, Nothing is Okay, was published in March 2018 by Button Poetry and spent some time as Amazon’s #1 Gay & Lesbian Poetry Collection.


Follow us for ways to stay updated about 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival news!

#DPF18

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Ask a Poet: Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

web header (1)Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re talking with Maria Mazziotti Gillan!


XGillanWhat was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?
Because I did not speak English until I went to school, and we spoke only Italian at home, I was gratified in grammar school to hear poetry read aloud by our teachers and I fell in love with it. It was in high school, however, that I was introduced to poets whose work really spoke to me by two amazing teachers, Mr. Weiss and Miss Durban. They made me brave in a way I had never been before, and taught me to shed my shy skin when I read poems aloud in those classrooms at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. I was so fortunate to have these teachers who introduced me to poets like Amy Lowell, T. S. Eliot, Wordsworth, Yeats and e. e. cummings, poets whose work I still love. My only regret is that I did not write letters to those teachers to thank them for asking me to read poetry out loud in their classrooms, and for teaching me about the music of language.

What is the role of poetry in today’s world?
As an immigrant child coming from a family with very little money, living in a house where English was not spoken, I was extremely shy and inarticulate. Through poetry, I was able to write down everything I was feeling, all the things I couldn’t express directly to other people in spoken English. Poetry gave me a voice and a way of communicating with the world. I have spent my life dedicated to poetry and its power to change our lives. Recently, I wrote a book on writing, called Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories. In that book, I try to give others the courage I learned for myself after much struggling. I think poetry can change the world and make a bridge between people that helps us to understand one another even if we come from various countries, places, and social classes. Poetry gives us the chance to explore what it means to be human.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
I’ve written a lot of things I was afraid to share. In the beginning, when I first started to
write, I was trying to hide behind language and reference to Greek gods, and other things that I thought would erase the fact that I came from a poor, immigrant family. Gradually, I started to move toward putting details of my own life and my own experiences into my poetry, worrying less about proving that I was smart and more about how I was communicating through the poems. For many of my earlier poems, I put a screen between me and the world. I tried to get simpler and more direct in order to build a bridge between me and other people. But often I was afraid to be that vulnerable. Sometimes, I’m afraid of all I reveal in my poems. An example would be the poems I wrote about my husband’s early onset Parkinson’s disease and his 25-year illness. I tried to be honest about the complexities of that situation, and I still find some of those poems difficult to read without crying. They are poems I felt I needed to write, and they illuminate what it was like to live with a debilitating illness for a long period of time. I hope my poetry gives the people who read it the courage to open all the secret compartments in their own lives.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
What I love about the festival is the energy it generates. There is electricity in the air from so many people listening to poems, and listening to poets talk about their work and about what poetry means to them. I find it particularly exciting on the student day, because I love to see the students so engaged with poetry. I think of how much poetry has helped me and how it’s saved me, and maybe there’s a student there who is shy and introverted, and has stories they are afraid to tell. The festival allows a person to find the words to express their feelings.


Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). She is the founder/executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also director of the Binghamton Center for Writers and the creative writing program, and professor of English at Binghamton University-SUNY.  She has published 23 books, including Paterson Light and Shadow (Serving House Books, 2017); What Blooms in Winter (NYQ Books, 2016); The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets (Cat in the Sun Books, 2014); Ancestors’ Song (Bordighera Press, 2013); The Silence in an Empty House (NYQ Books, 2013); Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories (MiroLand, Guernica Editions, 2013); The Place I Call Home (NYQ Books, 2012); and What We Pass On: Collected Poems 1980-2009 (Guernica Editions, 2010). With her daughter Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies. Visit her website, www.mariagillan.com.


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Ask a Poet: Nicole Sealey

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re talking with Nicole Sealey!


Sealey

Hey Nicole! What’s new with you?
Just out this past September, my debut collection of poems, Ordinary Beast, is what’s new with me! Since the book was released, I’ve been invited to read, participate on panels, and visit classrooms. And, my schedule shows no signs of slowing… and I’m cool with that. In the next few months, I’m off to Florence, Italy, upstate New York, Indianapolis, New Haven, and Norfolk!

If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
Not in great detail, as I wouldn’t want to scare them off. Of my poems I’d say: I’m exploring my obsessions—love, loss as well as the large and small violences that have shaped me/us— and, in so doing, engaging in a lifelong conversation with myself and by extension you.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Not at a reading per se, but an interaction with a reading audience nonetheless. An English teacher at a school in upstate New York emailed me earlier this year to let me know that her English class was studying “Clue,” a poem I’d written inspired by the murder mystery game of the same name. The teacher wrote, “We love finding the names of the characters and [would-be] weapons within the text.” A month later, I received video of the class in costume, dramatizing the poem, and having fun while doing so. This was the absolute best!


Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole Sealey is the author of Ordinary Beast, finalist for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, a Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize, as well as fellowships from CantoMundo, Cave Canem, MacDowell Colony and the Poetry Project. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming to Best American Poetry 2018, The New Yorker, The New York Times and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation and the 2018-2019 Doris Lippman Visiting Poet at The City College of New York.


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Ask a Poet: Forrest Gander

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re getting to know Forrest Gander!


 

XGander1What is the role of poetry in today’s world?
Poets ask themselves this same question all the time. Some people say cultures have moved away from words, towards image: movies, video, spectacle instead of quiet hours of reading. But in Roman times, two thousand years ago, poets shared work and read out loud in the street and most people ignored them and went to see the spectacle of lions eating gladiators in the coliseum. Ask yourself: what matters to us now from Roman times? It’s the literature and the art, not the wild spectacles or the names of lions. We see those times and hear the voices of those times in poems by great Roman poets. Literature has a way of enduring, of making a deep impression on our souls. I think it’s the same way now. In every country on earth, in every culture, young people are writing poems. The young continue to find poetry. Poems, the keenest deployment of language, seem to fill a need in human beings, some longing for a sharper articulation of our feelings, our imaginations. Poetry doesn’t make anyone much money, but it helps people to recognize themselves, and so it has a place in today’s world. You sometimes have to look for it, but maybe that makes it even more valuable to find.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Let me answer that from the side of the audience, with someone else’s reading. Michael Ondaatje has a poem—and the poem is way better than my narrative of it—in which he describes some memories of a close friend. The friend has come to a poetry reading to hear a poet whose work he doesn’t know. He’s sitting in the front row when the poet appears on his left and goes up to the podium. After two poems, Ondaatje’s friend realizes that he absolutely can’t bear this guy’s poetry. He starts looking desperately for a way to escape, but he’s in the front row. To his left, he sees a door that he presumes the featured poet must have entered the room through, so after the next poem, he jumps up and walks quickly to the door, opens it up and steps into . . . a broom closet. He stands there for a while in the dark and he starts laughing uncontrollably, so hard that he’s sure everyone in the room has heard him. When he gets control of himself, he opens the door and goes back to sit down in his seat again.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
At a party I was at in Arkansas, a fundraiser for Bill Clinton, I was talking with a man, each of us with a glass of white wine in our hands. I’m usually uncomfortable in those situations anyway, but this guy had cornered me. He was talking nonstop and I was listening for ten minutes or so, when finally he asked me, Well, what do you do? I said, I’m a poet. He looked at me like I’d said I was an alien come to abduct his children. Really, his eyes dilated in disgust. And he just turned and walked away as though he had wasted all that talking on me. Later, I asked someone who he was, what he did. Turns out he was a proctologist. He spent every day looking into people’s butts, and he thought writing poems was crazy.


Forrest Gander is a writer, translator, and editor of several anthologies of writing from Spain and Mexico. His 2011 poetry collection Core Samples from the World was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include two novels, As A Friend and The Trace; the poetry collections Eye Against Eye, Torn Awake, Science & Steepleflower; and the essay collection Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory & Transcendence. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Howard, United States Artists, and Whiting Foundations. His next collection of poetry, Be With, is forthcoming in May of 2018.


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Ask a Poet: Marilyn Nelson

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re spending some time with Marilyn Nelson!


Nelson

Hey Marilyn! What’s new with you?
What’s new with me? Every day is new: I can’t stop myself from realizing that many times a day. Every moment is new. A couple of days ago I watched my 12-month old granddaughter see a rhinoceros. Watched her look at the picture in the identification plaque in front of the enclosure, then look at the actual creature pacing there. Back to the picture, back to the actual rhino, over and over again. I feel like that a lot. Yesterday for lunch in a Vietnamese cafe in Chicago, I had a bahn mi sandwich. Today I realized I can probably hire an assistant to help me organize my little library and my notes toward various writing projects. I have several new projects approaching from the distance.

What are you currently reading?
Books by Tracy K. Smith, Jenny Xie, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires, as well as old issues of The New Yorker.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
In Washington, DC during a time when there were lots of news stories about war in Somalia, I was picked up in a taxi driven by a beautiful young man who said, when I asked where he was from, that he was from Somalia.

A long awkward silence followed. I thought about the turmoil that was going on over there, which had probably brought him to the US. Finally, he broke the silence by asking about me. I said I was in DC for a conference. He asked what kind of conference. I said A Poetry conference. “Poetry?” he asked. “What is this “poetry”?” I couldn’t thing of a meaningful response.

Do you have a favorite Festival moment from the past?
Favorite Festival moment from the past: “In Praise: Music and Poetry” reading with Gary Snyder, The Parkington Sisters, and the Newark Boys Chorus, in 2014. The boys are singing here, and Gary and I are sitting in front of them.


Marilyn Nelson was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her most recent poetry collections include My Seneca Village (namelos, 2015), How I Discovered Poetry (Dial Press, 2014), Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011 (Louisiana State University Press, 2012), and The Cachoeira Tales, and Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2005). She has received a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2001 to 2006, she served as the Poet Laureate of Connecticut. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2013. Nelson currently lives in Connecticut and is a Poet-in-Residence at The American Poets Corner of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.


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Join us Tuesday for our Grantee Call for a conversation about our new vision

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Two weeks ago, we shared with you our strategic plan and new vision for an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities.

Join us at 2 p.m. Tuesday for a conversation about our new vision and news about our leadership transition. We’ll take your questions about the changes to come and begin to hear your thoughts.

Registration is required to join this event. If you have not registered, please do so now.

Register here.

Our new vision

Equity is one of the most important issues facing society today, and foundations and nonprofts across the country are working to address inequities in the communities they serve. By centering equity in its plan, we seek to learn what’s working elsewhere, and to bring our knowledge of New Jersey and programming perspective to address equity issues in the state.

Read more and download our plan.

We are listening!

If you can’t make it to our Grantee Call, or even if you can, we are excited to hear from you. Send us your questions or comments about our strategic plan or your technical questions about registering for our Grantee Call at listening@grdodge.org.

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Dodge transitions: Chris Daggett announces retirement from Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

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Dodge Foundation President and CEO Chris Daggett at the Dodge Poetry Festival at NJPAC in 2016. © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.net

Dodge Foundation President and CEO Chris Daggett at the Dodge Poetry Festival at
NJPAC in 2016.

 

After eight years leading one of New Jersey’s largest and most well-known philanthropic organizations, Chris Daggett is retiring as president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation on September 1.

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Under Daggett’s leadership, the Foundation recently completed a strategic plan that envisions an equitable New Jersey. The new vision and mission, and the refreshed goals and strategies, move Dodge boldly in a new direction more reflective of the current and rapidly changing demographics and needs of the state.

“I am very excited about the strategic plan, and believe it will enable Dodge to help citizens and nonprofit organizations become more engaged in their communities and more inclusive in their work. I have been fortunate to be involved in this important shift in priorities and now leave to my successor the challenges and opportunities of implementing the plan,” Daggett said.

During his tenure, Daggett also built on the Foundation’s leadership position in arts, education, environment, poetry, and technical assistance training to nonprofit organizations in the state. In addition, out of concern for the national dramatic downsizing and closing of many newspaper companies, he initiated and led a greatly expanded focus of Dodge on local news and information through a new Informed Communities program.

“The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and, more importantly, the people of New Jersey have benefited from Chris’ dedication to the state, its arts, environment and education,” said Board chair Christopher “Kim” Elliman. “Chris’ signature achievements were in orchestrating the philanthropic commitment to fostering an ecosystem for local news, for the response and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, and for the increased focus on training STEM teachers for New Jersey’s schools. Chris worked tirelessly to make New Jersey a better place to live and work, from the urban north to the rural south of the state, recognizing the broad diversity of New Jersey and crafting a more equitable society. We are grateful for his eight-plus years and for all that he has and will continue to do for this state.”

Established in 1974 through the generosity of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, the Foundation provides financial and technical support to nonprofit organizations throughout New Jersey. It also presents biennially the largest poetry festival in the country, bringing together the world’s most acclaimed poets including numerous U.S. Poets Laureate and winners of virtually every major poetry award. On October 18-21, the Festival will be held in Newark for the fifth consecutive time.

Since Daggett started in 2010, the Foundation has awarded more than $90 million in grants to hundreds of organizations. It also has received recognition for its work in the Informed Communities program through nearly $5 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund. In addition, Daggett raised over $10 million of support from other foundations in New Jersey and New York City for Dodge’s work in helping five New Jersey universities revamp their Master’s degree teacher training programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM, and, when adding the arts, STEAM), through the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

In 2012, Dodge and the Community Foundation of New Jersey raised over $7 million to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy, providing support for mid- and long-term recovery. The New Jersey Recovery Fund helped with important efforts of land-use planning and social and mental health services, among other means of support beyond immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter provided by local, county, state, and federal emergency relief organizations.

“Working for the Dodge Foundation has been a remarkable opportunity for which I am most grateful. I am proud of the staff and trustees for all that we have been able to accomplish together, and look forward to following the work of the Foundation,” Daggett added. “I am committed to identifying other opportunities and challenges that allow me to continue contributing to the well-being of the state. ”

Prior to coming to Dodge, Daggett served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Cabinet Secretary to Governor Thomas H. Kean, Region 2 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. He also was a managing director of William E. Simon & Sons and a principal at JM Sorge Environmental Consultants. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards in education, the environment, and public policy over the past 25 years. Currently, he serves on the boards of the Schumann Fund for New Jersey and the Hudson River Foundation. In 2009, he ran as an independent candidate for governor.

Daggett will stay through the summer months to ensure a smooth transition of leadership, and will be available as needed afterwards to provide help to the Foundation.

Photo at top is © T Charles Erickson Photography

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Ask a Poet: Joseph O. Legaspi

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we’re getting to know Joseph O. Legaspi!


joseph-o-legaspi-hires-cropped

What are you currently reading?
I typically read a few books of different genres at a time, in addition to news, articles and essays from print and online magazines and sources. Currently I’m immersed in Jon Pineda’s Let’s No One Get Hurt (fiction), Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (nonfiction) and We’re On: A June Jordan Reader, a hybrid collection of the late writer’s works. As for poetry, I’m feasting on Jenny Xie’s Eye Level, Evie Shockley’s semiautomatic, Wesley Rothman’s Subwoofer, Shane McCrae’s In the Language of My Captor and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
Poetry has been such a constant presence in my life. Even as a child I loved nursery rhymes and just the way words look. My body instinctively reacted and moved and danced to songs. Growing up in the Philippines, the world around me hummed and glowed with such light that I attested to some kind of poetic sensibility. I’d written poems since elementary school, albeit I was unclear of the form and the intent then. Not until I discovered Robert Frost in junior high school that I began to write poems deliberately, intentionally. I learned poetic traditions throughout high school and into my early years in college: the Shakespearean sonnets, Keats, Yeats and Wordsworth. But I truly broke open when I began reading and learning from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, then the contemporary poets like Philip Levine, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sharon Olds. Again my world shattered when I discovered Asian American poets: Li- Young Lee, Kimiko Hahn, Marilyn Chin, Jessica Hagedorn, Jose Garcia Villa …

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
I’d never missed a Dodge Poetry Festival since 1996, from Waterloo Village to Newark, mostly as an audience, a few times as participant. I love it! My friend and I refer to Dodge as the Olympics of poetry. As usual I look forward to being immersed in words and song, to be in conversation, and bask in the joyful camaraderie of the festival.

What is something miscellaneous from your life that you would recommend to other people? It could be a person, a habit, an idea, anything that brings you happiness right now that you would like to recommend.
Spend a day quietly, with yourself, truly. Perhaps not leave your home, or stay in for the rest of the day after a morning stroll. Make sure you stock up on your favorite foods. Sip cups of tea. Read a book you’ve been meaning to. Write a little. Contemplate. Nap. Dream of the one you love. Peel a fruit. Observe the changing light. Hydrate. Have wine with your simple dinner. Dessert. No television, but perhaps music at a low volume. Journal. Think of your mother, your father. Read some more, by lamplight.


Joseph O. Legaspi, a Fulbright and New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, is the author of two poetry collections from CavanKerry Press, Threshold (2017) and Imago (2007; also, University of Santo Tomas Press (Philippines), 2015), winner of the Global Filipino Award in Poetry; and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghost Bird Press, 2018), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014), winner of The David Blair Prize, and Subways (Thrush Press, 2013). His works have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, World Literature Today, Best of the Net, Beloit Poetry Journal, Orion, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. He cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization serving generations of Asian American writers and readers. He lives with his husband in Queens, NY.


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Ask a Poet: Joy Ladin

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Ask a Poet blogs are back! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on the poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today, we are kicking off this series with Joy Ladin!


XLadin

Hey Joy! What’s new with you?
I published my eighth and ninth collections of poetry last year, Fireworks in the Graveyard and The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems. I had always hoped to publish a selected poems, so it was thrilling to accomplish something on my poetic “bucket list.” This year, I’m publishing a work of creative non-fiction, The Soul of the Stranger, about reading the Bible from a transgender perspective. I’m hoping the book will help religious people recognize what transgender lives and points of view can contribute to religious traditions.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I started writing poetry – or rather, rhymes I thought of as poems – as soon as I learned to write in first grade. I’m not sure why – my family didn’t read poetry or have poetry in the house. But for some reason I felt from the start that something mysterious, powerful and important happened when I put words together into lines and stanzas. Making rhymes felt like making magic, as though I was revealing the hidden kinship between words and meanings that seemed, from the outside, to be completely different. I suspect that rhyme felt to me like a way of symbolically overcoming the isolation I felt as someone who was born male and seen as a boy, when I always felt I was a girl. If rhyme could show that totally different words were the same inside, maybe the magic of language could reveal that I was really the same inside as the girls who saw me as a boy. In one way, my childhood wish was right on target: all trans people have is language, the magic of language, to enable others to see who we really are.

What was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?
By the time I got to high school, I had been writing poetry for years. In fact, I went to my first high school poetry workshop when I was in junior high. Everyone who was into poetry idolized our poetry teacher, James Lavilla-Havelin, who not only taught us to write but took us to readings by famous poets and arranged for us to read ourselves. It was thrilling to be brought into a world where poetry mattered so much, and to be introduced to so many great poets. My favorites then were James Wright and Denise Levertov, but those classes inspired me to read and write poetry all the time – literally. My hands and arms were covered with lines I thought of while I was walking, and I always carried small, sweat-soaked notebooks on my body that were crowded with poems, quotes and ideas.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Some years ago, I was invited to go to Uganda as part of a program that brought American and European academics to African countries. I was there for two extraordinary weeks, during which I was constantly amazed and inspired by the way Ugandans from every walk of life – farmers, theater performers, nuns – shaped their lives in ways they believed would contribute to making Uganda better. One night, I was brought to a very dark, deserted, run-down part of Kampala, the major city, and led down an unlit alley into an open air performance space where a theater group devoted to making plays that would teach people conflict resolution techniques would rehearse and develop new material after their long days of paid employment. It was very dark – there was no overhead lighting – and most of the small group of performers didn’t speak English, but they insisted that I read them my poetry. When I did, I experienced the most intense listening my work has ever been blessed with. Every word I said seemed to flow through the dark and be absorbed into lives and hearts I could feel but couldn’t see.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
I worked for years as a secretary to support my habit of writing. When I told one of my co-workers that I was a poet, she started backing slowly away and said, “You – you aren’t going to put me in one of your poems, are you?” I haven’t – but she became the star of an
anecdote I love to tell.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
I think fear is one of the greatest teachers a poet has. Not that we should share everything we are afraid of sharing, but whenever we are afraid to write something because someone might see it, or just because we are afraid to know what we ourselves think or feel, it’s like a spotlight is shining on a locked door inside us. I have found that, scary and hard and even painful as it can be, I always learn and grow by opening those doors.


Joy Ladin is the author of nine books of poetry, including Lambda Literary Award finalists Impersonation and Transmigration, Forward Fives award winner Coming to Life, and two 2017 collections, Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press) and The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press). Her memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her work has appeared in many periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review, and has been recognized with a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship. She holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Stern College of Yeshiva University. Links to her poems and essays are available at wordpress.joyladin.com.


 

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An equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities

Posted on by Chris Daggett, President and CEO

It is with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope that today we are releasing a new strategic plan for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, guided by the vision of an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, and sustainable communities.

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

As is clear from demographic trends, New Jersey will soon become one of the first states where no single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. As a foundation focused exclusively on New Jersey, we must work continually to understand the shifting priorities and needs of communities, and how our programs and operations reflect and serve the people of our state.

Download our strategic plan

Dodge’s strategic plan is the culmination of a comprehensive effort by our entire board and staff to examine how the Foundation’s expertise, influence, and relationships can address challenges and leverage opportunities facing New Jersey.

During this process, we spent a great deal of time examining our intercultural awareness as individuals and as an organization; exploring issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; reviewing current social, economic, and cultural trends in New Jersey; and talking with grantees, colleagues, and peers. We challenged each other and our assumptions about our grantmaking, our programs, and our organizational direction. The conversations were transformational.

Dodge's Strategic Plan

Dodge’s Strategic Plan

We have identified four goals that center equity at all levels of our organization — program, internal, external, and financial — as well as initial strategies we will pursue over the next three years. Because we know equity is a word with different definitions to different people, we defined what it means to our organization.

At the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, equity means aligning our resources to address historical, institutional, and structural impediments so that New Jerseyans of all races and communities have what is needed to realize a quality life.

We recognize that the completion of this plan is actually just the beginning. We now enter a period of exploration and intentional change as we implement our new vision, mission, goals, and strategies. It also will be a period of risk-taking and learning from successes and failures we experience along the way as we figure out our role in an equitable New Jersey.

As I shared in my strategic planning update in October and again in March, for the next three to five years, Dodge remains committed to our current program areas, supporting initiatives and nonprofit organizations in arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry that are innovative and promote collaboration and community-driven decision-making.

We also are committed to being open and transparent, to broaden our intercultural knowledge and skills, and to keep you informed of our progress on the next stages of this work.

For the remainder of 2018, we will continue grantmaking under our current guidelines and criteria while laying the groundwork to examine our programs, technical assistance, operations, investment strategies, and organizational structure through an equity lens. In 2019, we will be moving to our new vision as we explore and experiment with new collaborations and initiatives. In 2020, we hope to be living our vision as we integrate the results into our work through refreshed grantmaking guidelines. Our intent is to be respectful of the relationships and investments we have made throughout our 44 years, while we listen, learn, and reimagine new ways of working to advance our vision for an equitable New Jersey.

Along the way, we want to hear from you — grantees, stakeholders, and anyone else who would like to share their thoughts. Many of you are on the ground every day, doing work that matters to people across the state. We acknowledge and applaud you, and hope that you will let us know how Dodge can support and enhance those efforts.

What is your response to our new vision and mission, and what might that look like in your own organizations? What changes in our practices might help you advance these elements in your work? What are your concerns and questions about this new direction? What might Dodge and/or your organization do to foster more connections between and within communities? What does an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities mean to you?

Our first formal effort to get your thoughts will be in a grantee webinar on June 12, details for which will be sent out shortly. We will follow up that session with other formal and informal feedback opportunities as we move forward with our work.

As I said at the outset, we are enthusiastic and hopeful. Enthusiastic about the new direction of Dodge and the renewed purpose of our work. Hopeful about the prospects ahead and the opportunity to help increase the impact of the nonprofit community in New Jersey.

In closing, and in keeping with Dodge’s tradition of incorporating poetry into our everyday lives and in anticipation of our Poetry Festival in October, I share with you the poem read at our April board-staff retreat when Dodge trustees approved the strategic plan with a refreshed and renewed commitment to our home state.


You, Reading This, Be Ready

By William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Posted in Arts, Collaboration, Community Building, Creativity, Diversity, Dodge Insights, Education, Environment, Informed Communities, News & Announcements, President's Message | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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