A Day-Long Poetry Retreat for Teachers
Last Saturday, over 100 New Jersey teachers spent the day immersed in poetry at The Common Gathering. It sounds like a luxury. But for teachers who face enormous pressure and who are constantly “on” in the classroom, a day of retreat is a necessity.
The Common Gathering is the culminating event of our Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain program. The day allows teachers to follow their curiosity—they can choose from a number of writing activities or discussions for their electives, led by our Dodge Poets.
Our featured poets Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar did two readings—one which focused on their own poetry, and the next on poems that matter to them. It was thrilling to hear Dorianne Laux read new poems that have not been published in the first reading. When sharing poems that matter to her, instead of reading poems, Dorianne recited literally hundreds of lines of poetry that she has committed to memory. We were astounded, but also reminded of how certain poems become part of us through repeated readings and memorization.
Joseph Millar’s down-to-earth approach to poetry puts everyone at ease. When asked why he liked a certain poem, he said “I just like every damn thing about it.” It’s refreshing to hear a poet talk about poetry that way—you can simply love the poem without having to dissect it and figure it out. He also shared the important role that two of his high school teachers played in his teenage years—they recognized his sensitivity and his creativity and nurtured it.
The warmth and spirit of the day was palpable. We hope that these photos give you a small sense of what our teachers experienced. (all photography by Karen Mancinelli)