Lately you may have heard us referring to Giving Voice, a series of poetry exploration groups and part of our Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain program for New Jersey teachers. But “giving voice” is also an overarching theme of the Dodge Poetry Program, a thread running through all of our programs; it is important in these sessions for teachers, in mini-festivals for students, and on all of the stages of the Dodge Poetry Festival.
So what does “giving voice” mean?
Have you ever had the same meal prepared by two different chefs? Heard the same song sung by two different singers? Seen two photographs of the same scene taken by two different photographers?
When two individuals read the same poem aloud, they bring their individual experience to the words. They bring their attention and, most apparently, their voice. And from there, from the reader to the audience, there is a shared experience of hearing these words from that particular person, who brings their whole entire life up to that point to those words.
In one session, I heard an Emily Dickinson poem I’ve heard countless times throughout my life read aloud by a teacher who identified with it strongly. When she read the title of the poem, I thought I knew what to expect from this poem. But I was wrong. The way I experienced the poem was completely different than when I read it to myself because her voice conveyed the deep connection she had with the work. The poem was brand new because her reading showed her careful attention, and the words took on the feeling she had for the poem. It transformed a poem I thought I knew into a poem I had never heard before.
At the Common Gathering, the culminating event of our Spring and Fountain series, the first session which teachers take part in is called Giving Voice. Small groups led by Dodge Poets are given a packet of unattributed poems compiled by the Poetry Program staff and Dodge Poets, which is distributed that morning and has not been seen by anyone prior to arrival. After looking through the packet, participants select the poem they would most like to read aloud. The packet is full of poems which could be embraced by different voices, different experiences, different individuals – a range of styles and tones, with the hope that every participant can find something that moves them. Within these groups, each person reads their selected poem. It is an exercise in both reading aloud and active listening for the other members of the group.
We thought we’d share with you the list of poems from our most recent Giving Voice packet, for those of you who weren’t at the Common Gathering. These poems are not just for teachers, or for people who have attended Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain in the past, they are for everyone. We hope you enjoy.
Giving Voice Packet Attributions
- Face Poem by Dorianne Laux
- Mortal Combat by Ron Padgett
- Poem in Thanks by Thomas Lux
- Hummingbird by Dorianne Laux
- Lizards, Wind, Sunshine, Apples by Gary Snyder
- Ghostology by Rebecca Lindenberg
- In Your Honor by Arthur Sze
- Meditation on Living in the Desert, No.2 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- beauty gone by Charles Bukowski
- His Wife by Shirley Kaufman
- from Clearances 5 by Seamus Heaney
- Father’s Song by Gregory Orr
- Stranger by Idra Novey
- Child on Top of a Greenhouse by Theodore Roethke
- Pillowcase with Praying Mantis by Henri Cole
- Midsummer by William Bronk
- In Memory: After a Friend’s Sudden Death by Denise Levertov
- from A Teacher Looks Back by Carl Dennis
- Bus Stop by Donald Justice
- Detail of the Woods by Richard Siken
- How It Was Once in Our Country by Eavan Boland
- Litany by Rebecca Lindenberg
- Marblehead by Rebecca Lindenberg
- Fear of Happiness by A.E. Stallings
- The Pleasures of Merely Circulating by Wallace Stevens
- The Art of Contraction by Dan Pagis, translated by Stephen Mitchell
If you are a teacher and would like a PDF version of this packet in its entirety for educational purposes only, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.