Dodge Q&A: Martin Farawell on the Dodge Poetry Festival

Posted on by Dodge

The Dodge Q&A series is designed to introduce you to Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff as they share what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known.

With the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival coming up on Oct. 23 to 26 (full details here), we will be speaking to some of the people who help make it happen or who will be playing a special role. 

Today we talk to Martin Farawell, Poetry Program Director. 

140602_dodgeWhat led you to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program?

I was a graduate student studying with Galway Kinnell in NYU’s creative writing program when he told the class about this poetry festival happening in New Jersey. He and Sharon Olds, who also taught in the program, were both going to be there. I lived in Montclair at the time and decided to check it out.

It was the first time I heard Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Carolyn Kizer, Stanley Kunitz, Derek Walcott, Mary Oliver and others read in person.

Some of the poets were living legends. Others were local New Jersey poets like me. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of walking into the first 1986 Dodge Poetry Festival and knowing you were with your tribe. Poetry was much more of a fringe art 30 years ago. What can I say? I’ve been to all four days of every Dodge Festival ever since. I brought my own students when I taught high school and college. Read as a poet in 1996. Worked as a Festival Assistant in 1998 and never left.

What is your favorite part about planning the Dodge Poetry Festival?

Discovering new voices. We spend a lot of time reviewing every submission people send us. And we do review everything. Much of my time is spent listening to recordings, watching videos online, going to readings, reading poetry.

I’m amazed at the number of poets who are writing original, powerful, imaginative, moving poems who are virtually unknown or, at least, unknown outside of their local areas. There are always far more poets we want to invite than we could possibly have space for in any given year. Anyone who thinks poetry isn’t very much alive in contemporary America simply doesn’t know what’s going on out there. We’re in a renaissance.

On par with this is the actual work of putting together the program itself. You spend months going over the work of these poets, and when you start putting them together into readings and panel talks, there’s this excitement of realizing something very exciting is coming together. I’m reminded of something the late great theatrical director Paul Barry used to say, that 90 percent of a director’s job is casting. You get that right, and everything else is easy. That’s how I feel about the Festival Poets. You get the right ones together, and the rest is easy. Of course, I get tremendous help from the Poetry staff at every stage of this work. They make this look easy.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

This may sound like an evasive answer, but it’s not. What I’m most looking forward to is the Festival itself. By that I mean the energy and sense of community that is the Dodge Festival. For four days, thousands of poets and people who care about poetry, or who are just curious about it, come together and do some of the most intense listening of their lives.

The poet Li-Young Lee paused in the middle of one of his readings at Dodge to say, “You can almost hear the listening.” You’re in them idle of this rare paradox. Each person is having their own private experience, connecting with one other human being, the poet. But they’re having that private connection in a very public setting, surrounded by thousands of other people going through their own private experience.

This is what a great poetry reading shares with great theater: it’s completely private and personal, and yet a shared and communal. This is true of all powerful experiences in life. Birth, love, death are universal experiences. There’s nothing unique about them, but at the same time they are intimately personal, profoundly our own when we live through them.

This will be the third year the Dodge Poetry Festival will be held in Newark. Do you have any recommendations for things to do for festival-goers who have never been to Newark?

While they’re here, they should go to the Dodge Poetry Festival! And by that I mean all nine venues. The churches, the Newark Museum, the New Jersey Historical Society, Military Park, Aljira — there is amazing architecture in Downtown Newark, and the churches have a rich history. Visiting them is worth the trip. And the Newark Museum is a gem. It has the largest collection of Tibetan art outside of Tibet!

What attendees should do is discover all the reasons they have to come back. NJPAC has a world-class concert hall. I don’t think many New Jerseyans realize what a stunning space it is, and the line-up of performers they bring in there is amazing.

What does poetry mean to you? Do you consider yourself a poet?

I think poetry is the essence of what makes us human: the capacity to make metaphor, to see in our imaginations, without the actual objects in front of us, that this is like that, or the opposite, this is not like that, is the beginning of human thought.

Poetry is the attempt to say the unsayable. That’s what all human speech is, a series of abstract symbols meant to convey some sense of our experience of what it means to be a creature living on the earth. The first hominid who shaped a sound to represent an abstract idea or emotion was creating the first metaphor, the first poem. The moment our minds developed that capacity, and it’s actually much more complicated than merely the capacity to speak, we began to become human.

Poetry has existed in every known culture in history, and the first preserved texts in writing were poems. That we’ve never lost poetry over the millennia, despite the development of fiction, theater, radio, film, television, computer games, virtual realities, is proof of how much it is a part of our natures. The huge groundswell of interest in poetry we see among young people in recent decades — we witness this all the time in our visits to high schools — is a direct response to the pervasiveness of computers and personal devices, which are quite impersonal. It’s as if young people know something essential is missing, and poetry provides that.

Do I consider myself a poet? I started writing poetry when I was 10 years old. By 13, I knew this was what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I’m still working at it. So either I’m a poet or a hopeless optimist.

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2014 Featured Festival Poet: C. Dale Young

Posted on by Michele Russo, Poetry Coordinator

Young C Web

Measured and precise. Reflective and kind. The artistry in C. Dale Young’s poems resonate with his “real” job. Young is a physician–an oncology radiologist–and has said that because of the demands of his work, he only writes four or five poems a year and works continuously on them until they are complete. His commitment and sustained focus comes through in the poems—you hear the care he has given them and they feel contained and whole.

Many of C. Dale Young’s poems directly address his work as a physician. The interior view of a physician is not a perspective we are afforded very often—we think of doctors almost as things there to serve us and in our times of need, we can forget that while they are caring for us and our loved ones, they are also having a human experience themselves. Technically, the poems play with repetition of rhyme, line fragments and the ends of lines. This repetition gives the reader a chance to revisit the same territory through the course of a poem and to emphasize the importance of what might seem small details. “Torn,” the title poem for Young’s 2011 book, tells of a doctor giving stitches to young man after a hate-crime beating. The opening stanza follows:

There was the knife and the broken syringe
then the needle in my hand, the Tru-Cut
followed by the night-blue suture.

Throughout the remainder of the tightly composed poem, “the needle and the night-blue suture trailing behind it” reappears. And there is a turn in the poems’ voice, where the narrator takes over and reveals the extra care he provides:

Even though I knew there were others to be seen,
I sat there and slowly threw each stitch.
There were always others to be seen. There was

always the bat and the knife…

The intention and focus of the speaker amidst a troubling reality, is resonant with Young’s intentionality as a poet. In interviews, he is equally thoughtful and careful. There doesn’t seem to be a single wasted utterance or half-conceived thought. We look forward to welcoming C. Dale Young to the Festival for the first time.   You can find more of his poems on his website and at The Poetry Foundation.


We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,

visit our website

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Setting a New “Barre” for Arts Criticism

Posted on by Ann Marie Miller, ArtPride NJ Executive Director


The earlier title for this blog post was “Another One Bites the Dust,” prompted by notice from Dance NJ staff that dance critic Robert Johnson is no longer writing for The Star Ledger, but is now working on a freelance basis.


By now all are familiar with the Ledger’s new business model and the resulting journalistic staff layoffs that accompanied its Newark headquarters closure. ArtPride’s Dodge blog post in July  discussed the evolution of arts journalism in our state and beyond and mentioned crowdsourcing as a support system for new online entities like, New Jersey Stage and referenced those that are still working in print like US1 ,which features the visual, literary and performing arts up and down the Route 1 corridor in a major way.

Two over-arching thoughts emerge from this continuing conversation. One is the significant public value that is uniquely offered by art critics.

Think of those who made careers in print from Robert Hughes and John Rockwell to Pauline Kael, Clive Barnes and our very own Michael Sommers and Peter Filichia. Their trained eyes and literary skills chronicled art history, both globally and locally, including the culture wars of the 90’s and the emergence of public art, but more specifically the breadth of New Jersey talent assuring it a vehicle by which to shine and not be obscured by nearby metropolitan behemoths (i.e., The New York Times).
aferro-aboutThe work of these critics provided a daily forum for art issues and related thought to arrive on the doorstep of hundreds of thousands of everyday people, offering an open, even relentless, invitation to participate.

The second thought considers the reciprocal relationship between the arts community and this very public discourse. Criticism and cultural coverage render significant benefit to artists and their respective arts fields. As Betsy Sobo, Executive Director of 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company describes it, “Critics make us better artists. They may not always like what we do, but they provide a meaningful and often universal perspective of the field at large, and help us to question and become better at what we do.”

And certainly now this way that artists, arts organizations and audiences tracked and shared information and knowledge no longer arrives on doorsteps, but must be independently sought elsewhere.

So, questions linger about the future for arts critics, where they will ultimately find homes and who will step onto their porches.

newspapertabletThe Internet, while bountiful, relies on a free range of content being sought, unlike the more tangible and reliable print media that held journalistic and editorial standards as keystones of credibility. The Internet presents a contrasting and vast new frontier for both news and critical content.

Perhaps it is the civic responsibility of the millennial age, one that so eagerly devours electronically its personal content (and that of “friends”) to assure that arts reporting and arts criticism remain central to broad-based media consumption. That responsibility extends to upholding standards, even if they are defined in new terms, lest the biggest loss be the pursuit of truth and an understanding of what has come before and the continuum on which we ride.

Even in a mobile mosaic like cyberspace, community can find common ground and in so doing raise surprising (even massive) new levels of broad-based, diverse public support for serious issues like ALS through this year’s viral philanthropic Ice Bucket Challenge. But can it be sustained as consistent and everyday behavior?

In the July blog post, a comment was posted by Gary Wien of New Jersey Stage when he asked, “Are arts leaders afraid of moving in a new direction?”

Given the abundance of creative talent in New Jersey and beyond, it’s safe to say that arts leaders may be nervous about new modes and directions, but I dare say they are also excited by the implications and possibilities of innovation and adventurous pursuit. And while this all gets sorted out—just how the arts remain relevant and accessible to the everyday person through criticism and reportage — it’s also safe to assume that collaboration will thrive as arts groups turn to each other to face this and other challenges.

Those other challenges include decreased philanthropy, increased competition for leisure time and the need to adapt to the consumer habits of the millennial generation. To that point, a unique and creative collaboration and experiment in audience cross-fertilization was just announced by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Gallery Aferro.

Their Artist Box Initiative will bring artists from the Newark-based art gallery to NJSO performances in Newark throughout the 2014-15 season and culminate in May with a Gallery Aferro exhibit of works inspired by the artists’ concert experiences.

But perhaps poignantly, this collaboration was reported by, and I only randomly found it Monday as I was surfing Facebook. As I looked elsewhere, I didn’t come across any art critics reporting in a similar fashion that day.

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ann Marie Miller is Executive Director of ArtPride NJ, a statewide advocate for the arts. Learn more at





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CNJG Forum Explores Foundation Investment Strategies to Protect the Nest Egg

Posted on by Nina Stack, President, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers


DEFINITION of “Nest Egg:” nestegg “A substantial sum of money that has been saved or invested for a specific purpose. A nest egg is generally earmarked for longer-term objectives … . “Nest egg” has been used to refer to savings since the late 17th century. The term is believed to have been derived from poultry farmers’ tactic of placing eggs — both real and fake —in hens’ nests to induce them to lay more eggs, which meant more income for these farmers.” — from the website Investopedia

When most in the nonprofit world think of foundations they are focused on the grants, the program areas, the criteria, and perhaps the donor’s intent. What makes those grants possible though is the corpus that the foundation manages — the nest egg. The same is true for those charities that enjoy the income that comes from an endowment.

In 2008, sadly, we saw the value of endowments plummet as the stock market crashed.  There was one estimate that foundation assets in Morris County, New Jersey alone lost a half a BILLON dollars. When the assets of foundations and endowed charities tumble like that the ripple effect across the entire social sector feels more like a tsunami.

Perhaps 2008 was a “black swan” event but it certainly won’t be the last time the market fluctuates in a big way. For those foundation and nonprofit leaders responsible for being good stewards of the endowment, staying on top of the investments goes with the territory. Whether the corpus is large or small, you want to ensure it will be well managed. And after all, the more it grows the more money will be available to pursue the mission. But there are so many considerations.

Nonprofits with endowments must determine the appropriate spending policy in an ever-changing funding environment.

Alternative investments such as hedge funds, managed futures, private equity and others seem to be growing in design and popularity but how does a good steward know what to look for and works best for their organization? An investment committee must determine policy and then put it into good practice while at the same time managing the money managers well. How do mission-focused organizations consider mission-related investments?

Managing the corpus is clearly a very serious undertaking. It can cause some sleepless nights…but it doesn’t have to.

Next month, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers will present its first-ever Investment Forum for Foundations and Endowments, featuring more than 10 different sessions covering these topics and more. The Investment Forum has been designed to meet the needs and interests of not only the CEO, CFO and investment committee members, but also those in foundation and non-profit leadership positions looking to gain deeper insight into state of the art strategies for managing your corpus.

The day begins with an opening keynote by Brian O’Neil, chief investment officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Whether your corpus is $5 Million, $500 Million, or $5 Billion you’ll want to hear Brian’s insights on Oversight of Your Investment Portfolio: What You Have to Get Right.

Throughout the day, investment professionals from JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, PNC, Glenmede, Neuberger Berman, TD Bank, and many other leaders in the investment world will share their expertise and experience on such topics as Managing Your Manager, Active vs. Passive Investing, Constructing an Alternative Investment Portfolio, Opportunities in Fixed Income and more.

The day wraps up with a truly unique experience — a conversation with philanthropist investors Les Quick and Peter Simon, moderated by Feather O’Connor Houston, formerly the head of the William Penn Foundation.

The Early Bird Discount has been extended for one week, to October 17th. And a number of CNJG members are offering to underwrite some of the registration costs for grantees who would like to attend. Good stewardship of the nest egg is certainly one thing all foundations and endowed nonprofits must get absolutely right.

Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 120 funding organizations working in New Jersey. She also serves as a Board Member of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, a 34-member network serving more than 4,000 foundations, corporations and other donors across the country. 

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Dodge Q&A: Margaret Waldock on her upcoming talk with Gary Snyder at the Dodge Poetry Festival

Posted on by Dodge


The Dodge Q&A series is designed to introduce you to Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff as they share what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known.

With the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival coming up on Oct. 23 to 26 (full details here), we will be speaking to some of the people who help make it happen or who will be playing a special role. 

Today we talk to Margaret Waldock, Environment Program Director. Margaret will be interviewing poet Gary Snyder at “Poetry and the Practice of the Wild” on Oct. 26.

140602_dodgeYou’ll be interviewing poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder at the Dodge Poetry Festival at a special talk on Sunday called Poetry and the Practice of the Wild. Can you give us a primer?

This idea came from a conversation with Martin Farawell, after he revealed some of the poets he was considering for the festival. A number of them are well known nature writers and I thought, “What a great opportunity to call the environmental community together for some rejuvenation and inspiration!”

When Martin told me that Mr. Snyder was on board, I was floored. It’s quite an honor for him to be at our Festival, let alone have the opportunity to interview him.

I am really hoping that this special talk can be a celebration of the themes and messages of his work — a concern for the environment and rejection of the perspective that nature and humanity are in opposition — as inspiration to those committed to protecting New Jersey’s environment, incredible natural resources and landscapes. It’s easy to feel defeated in the face of such seemingly insurmountable challenges — climate change, pollution, suburban sprawl — and easy to feel powerless. We need a revival! And I couldn’t really pick a more perfect artist to provide that inspiration.

Have you had the chance to speak with Mr. Snyder? Were you nervous?

We haven’t actually spoken yet. We’ve communicated by email — and yes, I was so nervous it took me about a week to draft that first email to him.

He has famously lived off-the-grid since settling in the foothills of the Sierras in the late 60’s, so email communication with him is intermittent. In my fantasy, once a week, he’s traveling down some dusty, dirt road in an old pick-up truck heading into town to check his email at the library. This is my fantasy, and I am sticking to it.

It also seems that every time I reach out to him, he’s either preparing for or returning from a back-country trek. The last time we connected, he was just back from a high country climb with writers, scientists, and friends in the southern Sierra Nevada for an unofficial naming of a peak without a name after Henry David Thoreau. This is what I want to be doing when I am 85. Or 55 for that matter.

What do you make of his belief about the connectedness of poets to the natural world? What do you think the environmental community might take from that?

I was first introduced to his work when in college, studying ecology. I remember being really moved by this man’s wisdom, his words spoke to me and made a clear articulation of what I felt — this emotional connection to the natural world and a “knowingness” that is hard to put your finger on, but you just feel it. Maybe it comes from spending a lot of time in the woods as a kid.

And I didn’t grow up in a glamorously “wild” place like the Sierras, but in a 70’s era split-level, built on a lot along a country road in western New York state. But it might as well have been the wilderness.

I find that part of Gary Snyder’s message is that wilderness is everywhere — a weed patch on the side of a highway, for example, and that the connection between humans and nature is fluid, the relationship so ancient and porous that you cannot draw a line or make a distinction. It just is. And knowing this means you understand that what humans do to nature, we do to ourselves. This can be quite a compelling call to action.

Do you have a favorite Gary Snyder poem? How is it significant to you?

I have a few favorites, mostly from his Pulizer Prize winning book Turtle Island:

Mother Earth: Her Whales

Why Log Truck Drivers Rise Earlier than Students of Zen

For the Children

Do you write poetry – or anything else for that matter – outside?

Only in my mind, while on my bike. And I find autumn to be a particularly inspiring season for composing poetry while cycling!

We’ve seen your sidewalk poetry pictures on Twitter, so we know you are excited for the Festival. What else are you looking forward to?



Dodge Environment Program Director Margaret Waldock is celebrating the upcoming Dodge Poetry Festival by scrawling poetry on her sidewalk with chalk. This week’s is Utterance by WS Merwin #dpf2014 #poetrytome @dodgepoetry

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My colleagues at the Dodge Foundation have assembled an astonishing line-up of poets — all in one place, in this city. It’s amazing.

I am particularly looking forward to hearing British poet Alice Oswald who wrote a book-length poem on the River Dart, and Billy Collins, whom I have never seen read in person.  Richard Blanco was at the last festival and he was one of my favorites, so glad he’s returning. And finally, a shout-out to a personal friend, Dan Vera, making his Dodge Poetry Festival debut with his recently published, “Speaking Wiri Wiri.” If you haven’t read it, you should.

Last week, Dodge Foundation CEO Chris Daggett recommended people take a stroll through Military Park while they are at the Festival, and Dodge Poetry Coordinator Michele Russo recommended visitors try the Green Chicpea restaurant. Do you have any recommendations for places visitors new to Newark should visit?

If you have a chance, I suggest checking out Newark’s newest park along the Passaic River, a great place to get perspective that this city is a river town (see photo above and check out a park map here). And of course, you cannot visit Newark without getting some Portuguese food in the Ironbound. Just pick a restaurant, you really cannot go wrong.

Anything else going on that we should know about?

Yes! Definitely want everyone know that we are committed to making the Dodge Festival a sustainable, zero-waste event. Our friends at the Clean Water Fund will be overseeing a massive effort to recycle and compost all of the waste from the festival.  You can help by bringing a refillable water bottle and pay attention to the signs — there will be lots of friendly folks on hand from CWF to help direct you if you don’t know what bin to put things in.  With your help, we can send ZERO waste to the Newark trash incinerator — a major contributor to air pollution in the city.

 —Interview by Meghan Jambor

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