Remembering Galway Kinnell

Posted on by Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry

Galway Kinnell

 

Last week, just before the Dodge Poetry Festival, I dreamt I was walking beside a river with Galway Kinnell. It was a brisk, sunny, autumn day, very windy, and that shock of bangs kept falling across his eyes, as it often did. He was relaxed, at peace, clearly enjoying the bracing wind and weather. It was so vivid that I woke feeling we’d had a brief visit, and that I must write to him.

In the dream, he looked as he had when I first met him nearly thirty years ago in the Creative Writing Program at NYU, remarkably fit and vigorous though approaching 60. He had just won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the MacArthur genius award. A long career spent steadily building a reputation for a singular voice was reaping hard-earned and well-deserved national and international recognition.

But on the first day of that first writing workshop, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, laid out a notebook and uncapped his fountain pen, very much like any artisan preparing to get down to work. This was going to be a workshop in the oldest sense of the word: a long-experienced laborer in the art was going to share everything he knew to help the young apprentices who’d come to improve their craft.

The competitive atmosphere that has since come to poison so many MFA programs was simply not permitted in that room. His metaphor for our shared task was to compare us to runners on the same team practicing on the track: We were not competing with each other. We were to urge each other to try harder and, like any good team, we’d all be better as a group by having practiced together. He insisted the greatest value of the entire program was not what we might learn from him, but from the friendships we would form there.

I was so nervous during those first workshops that on nights I had poems to present I would break out in hives that were so severe they made my lips swell, causing me to lisp and slur words. This was caused by my own fear. He was a careful, solicitous teacher who saw as his main task to try and discover what each individual student’s personal project was, and try to help them remove whatever obstacles were in their way. He spoke of personal issues that inhibit writing as much as he did of matters of craft. He was the single most important teacher to me in my life as a poet. I’d sent him a thank you letter saying as much a decade ago.

As the Director of the Dodge Poetry Festival is it important to note that I was only one of thousands of young poets he taught over the decades of his career, and the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands influenced by his work, on the page and as a reader. At the height of his health and powers, a reading by Galway Kinnell gave a modern reader some sense of what it might have been like to be in the presence of a shaman or a bard in the days when we all believed the spoken word was capable of magic. Those who heard him at the Dodge Festival know what this was like.

But here’s a bit of Dodge Poetry Festival trivia you may not be aware of: Back in the 1980’s, when then Dodge Foundation Director Scott McVay was first beginning the poetry program, working with poets of national stature to see what such a program might be capable of, it was Galway who first uttered the phrase “poetry festival.”

He returned many times, most recently in 2010, when he read his translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies in its entirety. It was an unforgettable evening. He was an unforgettable talent and teacher. I join the many who care about poetry and his great contribution to it who will miss him the rest of our lives.

Even if you’ve already read them, go out and read The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World, The Book of Nightmares, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words, The Past, any of the editions of the Selected Poems and his most recent, Strong Is Your Hold to remind yourself just how much contemporary poetry is capable of.

 

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Sustainability Gets Schooled: New Sustainable Jersey Program Launches

Posted on by Donna Drewes, Sustainable Jersey

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When asking a classroom full of first graders what the term sustainability means, I especially liked the answer I got from a thoughtful 6-year-old: “Sustainability is like not just keeping my own desk neat, but keeping the whole school nice because it belongs to everyone.”

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Thinking of her school as the commons or the shared resources that we must all work together to preserve and enhance is a great image for sustainability in our schools. It’s also a reminder to me, that kids get it.

Children, if given a chance, can be the strongest advocates for environmental change. They want to make a difference in the world. And in turn, schools and school administrations have a big responsibility.

Schools play a special role as places of learning to help students understand their impact on the planet while teachers empower them to take responsibility for their own future which is an important step in their education.

Launch of Certification Program to Advance Sustainability in Schools

SustainableJerseyforSchoolsBrochure-1After five years of growing the Sustainable Jersey program for New Jersey’s 565 municipalities (74 percent of New Jersey municipalities are now participating), we are humbled and excited to announce that today we are taking another leap of faith with the launch of the sustainability certification program for New Jersey’s 2,500 public schools.

At the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) Workshop 2014 in Atlantic City, Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director and I will be joined on-stage by the key leadership from eight partner organizations to announce Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

Our partners bring extensive expertise with the public school community in New Jersey and are an integral part of a comprehensive coalition of educational organizations and academic, business and state agency partners that helped develop and vet the certification program actions.

The partners include: New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Parent Teacher Association, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association and the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey.

Like the municipal program, Sustainable Jersey for Schools provides a rigorous yet doable roadmap for achieving a comprehensive sustainability program — in this case for schools.

The certification application is based on a selection of 87 actions in 17 categories that quite simply, eliminate the time consuming process of trying to put together a sustainability program by finding the information piece by piece. Participating schools earn points for certain actions, such as performing energy audits, integrating sustainability into student learning and boosting recycling efforts.

The program will help schools improve efficiency, cut waste and contribute to students’ education in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM education.

Good for the Environment and Saves School District Millions

And, sustainable practices are not only good for students; they also can result in efficiencies and cost savings in energy, water and garbage bills.

Forward thinking schools in New Jersey have already begun to move in this direction. Since 2007, when the Galloway Township Public School District started tracking and implementing energy management programs, it has had energy savings of over $4.5 million. The energy reduction impact is equivalent to over 1,800 passenger cars not driving for one year. These savings are significant for a school district and can free up much needed money for the classroom.

The Montgomery Township Public School district has two elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. The district has installed solar in four out of five of the schools and in August generated 40 percent of their electric use from this clean, renewable resource, thereby displacing use of energy from less sustainable sources.

Who Should Get Involved?

The formation of a “green team” is the first step in establishing a school sustainability program after registering. Green teams leverage the skills and expertise of team members to develop plans, implement programs and assist with educational opportunities that support the creation of a sustainable school.

A green team may include:

  • School board representatives to provide the vision, leadership, authority and access to resources needed to implement a wide range of sustainability plans, programs or projects in the school district.
  • A district business administrator as he/she manages the budget, purchasing and cost-saving programs that the school district may pursue which is needed for sustainability projects.
  • Teachers and school leadership to assist with school sustainability planning and to play key roles in developing or delivering initiatives or incorporating education for sustainability into the classroom
  • School facility manager because he/she has direct technical responsibility for managing the school’s heating, cooling and ventilation systems and school maintenance as well as the school’s integrated pest-management program. The facility manager is also a crucial partner in a wide range of indoor air quality issues.
  • Students are the core reason for integrating sustainability into the school learning environment and can be a vibrant part and advocates for many of the program actions.
  • Custodians play an important day-to-day role in supporting a healthy school environment through green cleaning, recycling and managing indoor air quality and environmental risks.
  • Health officers and school nurses’ roles in student and staff health and wellness are expanding as asthma, childhood obesity, mental health, substance abuse and other issues continue to impact student performance. 
  • Food service staff can help incorporate school gardens, farm-to-school programs, recycling and waste reduction activities, as well as promoting healthy eating campaigns into food service operations.
  • Parent-teacher organizations/associations provide leadership with parents in the school community and can advocate and support new school programs ranging from school gardens to waste reduction programs and school community educational programs.
  • Parents are important champions for a wide range of new programs and can bring additional resources and expertise to the school green team.
  • Community groups, businesses and nonprofits such as cultural and arts organizations, health advocates and hospitals, environmental and stewardship organizations, gardening and health food advocates, transportation organizations, and green businesses can be excellent green team members. These groups are frequently well connected to the community and can generate resources to help the program succeed.
  • Municipal green team liaisons will be local experts who can help schools complete actions or provide tips and tricks on how they completed similar program actions for the municipal certification program.
  • Fleet managers and drivers play an important role in anti-idling campaigns, fleet management and partnering on safe routes to school programs.

Getting Started

To get started in the program, a school board must adopt a resolution of participation and then register at the Sustainable Jersey for Schools website. Then each school in that district may register on the program website. The website provides the list of sustainability actions and implementation tools available. There is no fee for the certification, the use of the program tools or participation in the training workshops.

I hope you will join us to take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time!  Visit the new website launched today and follow us on Twitter at SJ_Schools!

 Connect with Sustainable Jersey on its Website and Facebook page.

Donna Drewes is one of the principals that founded and now co-directs Sustainable Jersey. She is a professional planner with nearly 30 years of experience in sustainable development and natural resource management planning.

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Inside the 15th Biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival

Posted on by Meghan Jambor

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Fifteen poets kicked off the 15th Biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival Thursday morning with readings of their work at the first of 120 events planned at the four-day poetry celebration.

Prudential Hall at NJPAC was packed with hundreds of teachers and people passionate about poetry during the morning Poetry Sampler, the first of two that day. In addition to the samplers, poet readings and conversations, the day included special programming aimed at teaching poetry.

This is the sixth Dodge Poetry Festival Bill Goncalo, 52, of Fall River, Mass., has attended. The English teacher at Diman Regional High School says coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival is like “recharging my battery.”

“The paperwork, the curriculum, this gets me back to what I love about teaching,” Goncalo says. “This is the stuff that makes you whole.”

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One of the poets Goncalo came to see is legendary environmental poet Gary Snyder. Snyder joined poets Yusef Komunyakaa and Alice Oswald Thursday morning for a conversation titled “The Voice That Is Great.”

Snyder read his 13-word poem “A Dent in a Bucket” first, followed by several other short works.

“I love the way a long poem and a short poem are the same length,” Oswald said in response during the session. “They both have to be infinite.”

But it was a reading by poet Natalie Diaz during the morning sampler that sparked in Goncalo what he described as a “teardrop moment.”

In “Why I Hate Raisins” — what Diaz called an “ode to government food” — she describes growing up poor and eating a whole box of raisins that makes her sick. Her mother quiets her when she complains they cannot afford sandwiches, like the white kids she knows. Reflecting back on that memory as an adult, she realizes her mother went without any raisins that day.

“It caught me off guard,” Goncalo says. “I love that about poetry, that it can stir you.”

Madison High School English teacher Doug Oswin, 26, has been coming to the Festival since he was a student at Lenape Valley Regional High School.

“I love how mysterious poetry is. There’s a feeling that overwhelms me when I hear it performed that I can’t explain,” Oswin says.

Oswin said he just completed reading “Beowulf” with his students, calling the epic poem the “Jersey Shore” of the time.

“I like to connect poetry with what society needs,” Oswin said. “The students understand that, understand the value of poetry as essential to our being.”

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During an afternoon conversation with poets Richard Blanco, Sharon Olds and Stephen Kuusisto, an audience member asked about the confessional nature of poetry.

“I never feel exposed in my poetry,” Blanco said. “You develop a persona in your poems. It’s like someone that’s not you and you at the same time. … There’s something about looking at yourself as someone else that is a relief.”

Olds, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet known for her unflinching accounts of the human body, said she doesn’t consider herself a confessional poet.

“I see myself as a complaining poet,” she quipped. “There is something weird and wonderful about me that I’m not embarrassed. … Something happens when it’s art.”

A highlight of the day for Aevon Watts, 27, a West New York Middle School teacher, was a performance by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

“It was overwhelming — breathtaking,” Watts said. “It made you think of how life is an orchestra, everything moving together to make a sweet melody.”

Nancy Hind, 62, traveled from Long Beach, Ca., to attend the Dodge Poetry Festival, her first. She shared a plane with poet Brendan Constantine but didn’t know it until they retrieved their luggage at the airport.

“I was looking for poets. I thought the whole plane would be filled with people coming here, that’s how excited I am,” Hind said. “I saw (Brendan) wearing a tech-y T-shirt and a button that said ‘sub-human’ and asked if he was going to ‘The Festival.’”

Hind said the curriculum at her school does not include poetry, but she teaches it anyway.

“Our kids are afraid of words — of being wrong,” she said. “Poetry surprises them. They’ll write poems and I will help them edit out extra words and when they read it again, things connect. The looks on their faces, ‘I wrote that?’ it gets kids hooked.”

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During the evening Poetry Sampler, Chris Daggett, Dodge Foundation President & CEO, acknowledged the foundation’s Board of Trustees for their dedication to and “unbelievable” support of the Dodge Poetry Festival and welcomed Dodge Poetry Director Martin Farawell, who introduced each of the 25 poets.

One-by-one, poets took to the stage and performed short readings, some saying a few words about their craft or the energy of the festival.

“This room is packed and it is amazing that it’s filled with poetry readers,” Cathy Park Hong said before diving into her reading.

View more photos from the Thursday evening Poetry Sampler:

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For more information and live coverage of the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival, visit DodgePoetry.org, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter #DPF14 and Instagram. 

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#DPF14 Social Spotlight

Posted on by Dodge

Get an inside look at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival like never before. We rounded up news, photos, links and tweets from the Festival. Add yours with #DPF14 by posting to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram:

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Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival Kicks Off Thursday in Newark

Posted on by Dodge

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We hope you will join us at the 15th biennial Dodge Poetry Festival, our third held in Newark’s Downtown Arts District. Kicking off Thursday with a poetry sampler featuring 15 poets, the four days of the Festival will include 120 events and over 70 award-winning poets from all across the country and some from overseas.
IMG_142The Poetry Festival features Main Stage Readings by: Richard Blanco, Billy Collins, Natalie Diaz, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Marie Howe, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Robert Pinsky, Tracy K. Smith, Gary Snyder, Brian Turner, Kevin Young and many more!

The Poetry Festival Bookstore will be in the Chase Room at NJPAC, and Festival merchandise will be for sale in NJPAC’s lobby. Look for poet book signings throughout the festival there, as well.

Be sure to look for the Dodge Poetry Festival Green Team, who will be helping attendees recycle and compost all waste. Learn more about the zero-waste effort underway here.

Special events include:

  • Thursday’s POETRY SAMPLERS: Get a wide sampling of the Festival Poets who’ll be participating in the Festival. Fifteen Festival Poets will read in the morning Poetry Sampler, and Twenty–four will read in the evening. The Poetry Samplers are always one of the highlights of the program, and one of the most popular events. Each poet will read for five to six minutes.
  •  Friday’s POETRY AND SONG: In these sessions, poets, songwriters and musicians collaborate in performance and explore such questions as: What might we discover if we explore poetry and song as points on a spectrum as opposed to distinct art forms? How do they influence and inform each other? What possibilities arise if we question the boundaries between them?
  • Saturday night’s ANOTHER KIND OF COURAGE: Classic war stories often evolve around finding the courage to enter battle, but there is another kind of courage required of veterans and their families as they face the impact and aftermath of war. For this special performance, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson and Brian Turner are joined by veterans who’ve participated in the Warrior Writers and Combat Paper workshops, and by poets Jehanne Dubrow, Elyse Fenton, Charles H. Johnson, Gardner McFall and musicians and singers from the Tomás Doncker and Parkington Sisters bands.
  • Sunday’s POETRY AND THE PRACTICE OF THE WILD: Poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder has written that poets, by the nature of their art, are closer to the fundamental elements of being alive—birth, love, death, —and that this could (and should) lead to a greater attentiveness to the natural world. In this reading and informal conversation with Dodge’s Environmental Director Margaret Waldock, Snyder will share a lifetime’s worth of experience exploring the relationship between poetry and our connection to the world, and how this informs our sense of our place in the animal kingdom, nature, the wild, and geological history.
  • Sunday’s A TRIBUTE TO AMIRI BARAKA featuring Billy Collins, Natalie Diaz, Rita Dove, Juba Dowdell, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Nelson, Mia X and other poets and guests celebrate the work of Amiri Baraka.

For more information and live coverage of the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival, visit DodgePoetry.org, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter #DPF14 and Instagram.

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