A message of gratitude from Chris Daggett

Posted on by Chris Daggett

 I am writing my final post as Dodge President & CEO to say thank you to all the organizations and people that Dodge has supported over the past eight years. I have greatly enjoyed working together, seeing your progress, and building new — and strengthening existing — relationships.  

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Chris Daggett, Dodge president and CEO

Most importantly, I want to tell you how much I respect and admire the work you do, day in and day out. Few people have an appreciation for how hard you toil, too often for less money and recognition than you deserve. You humble and inspire me every day with your commitment to this great state. 

I celebrate the many successes we have had working together. It’s been a good run and an incredible experience, due largely to your many efforts great and small.  

We at Dodge are in the enviable position of having money to award in grants, and you are in the unenviable position of having to convince us to provide you with funding. It is an asymmetrical relationship, yet we strive always to be mindful of that disparity and to be discerning, fair, and transparent in our grantmaking decisions, recognizing that in the end, our resources pale in comparison to the need. Know, too, that as much as you value our financial input, we value your knowledge and dedication. We view you as partners in a collective effort to have meaningful impact. 

Toward that end, as you know, we recently completed a new strategic plan that centers on equity. The new vision, mission, and goals, which you can find here, point Dodge in a direction very different from that of our past 40 years.  

But, as yet, our strategic plan simply is words on paper. The words need to be turned into concrete actions that improve the lives of all New Jerseyans. We are being intentional about identifying inequities codified into systems by law, regulation, and common practice. Our aim is that those most disproportionately impacted have agency and opportunity to redesign and influence those systems, not through raising one group by pushing down another, but through helping all communities understand and value their interdependence. It is an enormous challenge that will take the courage and patience of every one of us. 

With the polarizing tone and substance of the current political, social, and economic discourse in the country, the achievement of an equitable New Jersey is more important than ever. The Dodge board and staff will be working hard to implement the strategic plan at the same time they are trying to help you with your own organizations’ efforts to respond to the challenges of the times. 

I hope you will embrace this new vision and provide your insights and feedback to the Foundation staff as they implement the plan. It will be vital to our collective ability to improve the state and to build community in the best sense of the word – in every block, neighborhood, and town – grounded in supportive relationships where everyone feels welcome, respected for their talents, and empowered to contribute. 

Thanks again. It has been an honor to work with all of you. 

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Ask a Poet: Jericho Brown

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 Jericho Brown!


Jericho Brown

If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
When people ask me what kind of poems I write, I usually reply, “Good ones.” I think it’s hard for poets to describe their own work because when we write it, we’re trying to discover a sense, a revelation…not a subject, not content. We want to see the world in a new way. My poems are about changing the lens through which we see all of the things we’ve already seen…which is to say, they’re good poems.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I have to trace it back to a mother who really couldn’t afford childcare. She would drop my sister and I off at the library whenever she had errands to run. We had no choice but to read. I don’t know if the librarians knew it or not, but they were our babysitters.

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 was 10 years old I had read several of John Updike’s novels, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni — so many people whose work still means so much to me. That seed was watered by my experience growing up in the African American church, which is a location of pomp and circumstance and drama and theater. I was very active in the church, a fan of my pastor’s oratory. After that, I became interested in writing as a space where you could put things you couldn’t necessarily talk about in the grocery story line, but that you knew existed. Things I began to understand that people couldn’t talk about but could be written about. When I was 16 years old, I had a high school assignment to spend a year writing a research paper. I missed school the day topics were picked, and only one was left: the confessional poets, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton. I spent a year reading their poems, even though I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I had to read criticism written about their poetry so I could better understand it. I began teaching myself about poetry and my own aesthetic proclivities. From that point on, I think I had the idea I would be a writer of some sort. I was really taken by the ways in which those poets made themselves vulnerable to their own work, as well as the ways in which they made it clear they were living in a landscape that was not only personal but also political. That’s exactly what I try to do every time I sit down to write a poem. I want to write poems that are not only about me, but also about the world.

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Buzzfeed, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. He is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University. 

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Ask a Poet: Marilyn Chin

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 Friday, presented in no particular order.

Today’s featured poet is Marilyn Chin!

ChinHey Marilyn! What’s new with you?
My new book A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems will be published in October, 2018. I can’t wait to read some of the poems to the Dodge audience. It’s a selection from 30 years of “activist” poetry, that is to say, I cover a lot of relevant social and political themes: identity, race relations, war, justice, feminism, poverty, immigration, biculturalism…all that important stuff. And Oh, yes, I also include poems about love, friendship, family, animals, Goddesses and all that fun stuff. What else is new? I am taking hip hop dancing classes and doing hot yoga!

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
When I was two years old and living in Hong Kong. My grandma used to carry me on her back and recite Chinese poetry to me. She was illiterate but had an amazing memory. She had memorized hundreds of poems and Confucian, Buddhist and folk sayings. I believe that hearing poetry very early in my life – even in an ancient Chinese dialect that I couldn’t fully understand – doomed me to a life of poetry!

Do you have a favorite Festival moment from the past?
When I performed at the Dodge Fest in 2016, a student was so into the moment that she spontaneously got out of her seat, climbed up onto the stage and sang my poem “Blues on Yellow” in a beautiful bluesy, jazzy sultry voice! She felt that this poem needed to be sung. She felt that I did not do it justice by just reciting it! The entire audience erupted with applause. Certainly, this was an exciting and humbling moment for me. I learned so much from this student – Obviously, a blues poem comes from a musical tradition and should be sung, duh! I shall cherish this moment forever.

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2018); Hard Love Province (W.W. Norton, 2014), which won the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; Rhapsody in Plain Yellow (W. W. Norton, 2002); The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994); and Dwarf Bamboo (Greenfiled Review Press, 1987). Her many honors include the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship at Bellagio, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and the PEN/Josephine Miles Award. In 2018, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is currently professor emerita at San Diego State University. 

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Ask a Poet: Sandra Cisneros

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’s featured poet is Sandra Cisneros!

XCisnerosKeith Dannemiller

Hey! What’s new with you?
I’m doing a lot of projects at the same time, so many it feels like I’m doing nothing.  I’m working on interviewing immigrants for a Ford Foundation “Art of Change” project, and this means I travel a lot more than usual, and I have to carry microphones and a recorder with me like a journalist.  It’s a lesson in humility, because I have to remind myself this is not a conversation.  My task is to do what the politicians are not doing and should be doing—listening.  I also have to take care to not project what my final project will be; theater, poetry, narrative, testimonies.  I have to remind myself to get out of the way.  That means being open to where the work takes me and not imposing my will on it.

I’m also collaborating with a composer, a photographer, and a clothing designer on various projects that involve writing, with song, with images, and on clothing.

And I have a new chapbook coming out this October with Sarabande Press, a bilingual edition of a short story, Puro Amor.  The big deal is that it includes illustrations by the author.  Me!  First time I’m publishing my artwork.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Erika L. Sánchez’s Lessons On Expulsion, poems like handkerchiefs wrinkled with tears, and re-reading Dorothy Allison’s The Women Who Hate Me, whose ferocity takes my breath away.  Both books make me feel like writing, and I love books that inspire me to dash for my pen.   I also just re-read John Water’s Role Models, a book that makes me laugh out loud and again, makes me want to write essays.  He’s brave and out there, and I love that in these times when people are afraid to speak their truth.   He uncensors me!  Also, on my bedside are towers of books, essay, biography, short stories novels.  Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Haifen and Gregory White Smith.  Whew!  It’s an incredible labor of love that easily must’ve take a decade of their lives!  And I’m re-reading The Haunting of Hill House, on the recommendation of writer Samantha Chang, but I only read it in the daytime because it’s too scary.  And poet Juan Armando Rojas Joo in Columbus, Ohio, gave me an anthology he and Jennifer Rathbun edited called Sangre Mía, Blood of Mine, poetry of the border, aptly titled because it makes your blood freeze.

What is the role of poetry in today’s world? 
Oh, I don’t think I can answer that.  But I can say what the role of poetry is FOR ME.  For me poetry is the room in the house of the spirit to say whatever I want.  This is especially important as a woman, because I’ve had to work my whole life to gain a public voice.  Poetry is a space for me to discover myself.  And what I discover isn’t always flattering, but it’s always illuminating.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience. 
I once read in Saratoga, New York, to an audience equally divided among folks who only spoke English and folks who only spoke Spanish.  I realized this as I began, because, luckily I asked the audience before beginning.  Fortunately, I’m good at improvising, so I began by singing a song in Spanish, a real torch song anyone could understand even if you didn’t speak Spanish.  Then I went back and forth in English and Spanish.  It was exhausting, like playing ping pong by myself.  But it was also thrilling!

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 recommend that folks use sunrise or sunset as a bell to remind us to forgive everyone who bugs us, to remember to ask forgiveness of the same folks, because for sure we bug the hell out of them, and finally to forgive ourselves.  This is a good practice even and especially if you don’t feel like forgiving.  Little by little it starts to sink in and work, but you have to practice it on a daily basis.

Sandra Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, whose work explores the lives of the working-class. Her numerous awards include NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, several honorary doctorates and book awards nationally and internationally, and most recently Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the National Medal of the Arts, awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. The House on Mango Street has sold over five million copies, been translated into over twenty languages, and is required reading in elementary, high school, and universities across the nation. Founder of awards and foundations that serve writers and a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, Sandra Cisneros earns her living by her pen.

Photo Credit: Keith Dannemiller

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Ask a Poet: Jan Beatty

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 Jan Beatty

XBeattyHey Jan! What’s new with you?
I recently found out that I won the 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize for my book, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems. I’ve been directing the MFA program at Carlow University, and we’ve just come back from Dublin for our 12-day residency, which was terrific. With the summer break, I’ve been working on a new book and submitting a chapbook manuscript—but it’s the time for reading, the ocean, the mountains that are giving me that precious door to writing which is the key to everything.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I’ve written poems since I can remember, and I won the poetry contest in first grade for a poem about floating away on a cloud. As time goes on, I realize that I’m still writing poems about escape. I wrote all the bad break-up poems in locked diaries that I hid under my bed in high school. But, I started studying and writing seriously in the early 80’s. The poets who first made me want to write were Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Phillip Levine, and Gerald Stern.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
I have written many things that I was afraid to share. I was also afraid to think about them, to feel them, and to write them down. I think that these have become some of my strongest poems. My students and I talk about this idea of writing what scares you—it takes courage to be a poet, and more courage to share those poems. Yet, there is so much energy around what is withheld. What is it that we’re really afraid of? Judgment? Rejection? Hurting someone with our words? These are necessary things to process and consider, yet we need to push through moments of fear. As poets, it’s part of our job to dig deep into emotion and to surface with hard-fought material. I’m still working to write the things that scare me, the things that I’m afraid to share.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
I’m looking forward to high school day. The energy of that day is mind-blowing, with students from all over the country who are wild for poetry! At my last Dodge Festival, I was lucky to read to students, along with the poets Richard Blanco and Robert Pinsky, and I was stunned by the raw enthusiasm in the concert hall. All during the festival, I had memorable moments of conversation with students—on the sidewalk outside venues, in the hallways, in Q&A sessions, or just running into students on the way to lunch or dinner. Those unscripted, unexpected conversations were some of the best moments of the festival for me. I’m looking forward to meeting more students and maybe seeing some of the same faces from years before.

Jan Beatty’s fifth full-length book, Jackknife: New and Collected Poemswas published by the University of Pittsburgh Press and won the 2018 Paterson Prize. Her last book, The Switching/Yard, was named one of 30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry by Library Journal. The Huffington Post named her one of ten women writers for “required reading.” Her poem, “Shooter” was featured in a paper delivered in Paris by scholar Mary Kate Azcuy: “Jan Beatty’s ‘Shooter,’ A Controversy For Feminist & Gender Politics.” Other books include Red SugarBoneshaker, and Mad River, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. For twenty-five years, Beatty was host and producer of Prosodya public radio show on NPR affiliate WESA-FM featuring the work of national writers. Beatty worked as a waitress for fifteen years, and as a welfare caseworker, abortion counselor, and a social worker and teacher in maximum-security prisons. She is the managing editor of MadBooks, a small press that published a series of books and chapbooks by women writers. She directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and directs the MFA program.  

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Ask a Poet: Henri Cole

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 spending some time with Henri Cole!


HC1Hey Henri! What’s new with you?
I have just published a hybrid memoir [Orphic Paris] about my time in Paris. By “hybrid,” I mean that the book combines journal writing, prose poetry, and photography. On a more personal level, I have been living in California near the desert which I love–not the season of fires, but the extreme beauty of the Earth.

What are you currently reading?
I read a lot, like a snake eating mice. I loved Eileen Myles’s memoir Afterglow, about her beloved dog Rosie. She is marvelously original. Also, I just reread Marilyn Chin’s poems in Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Her in-betweenness—born in Hong Kong, raised in Portland, Oregon; never fully Chinese, never fully American—is often her subject. I think in-between is a good place for a poet. This is also true in Natasha Trethewey’s collection of poems Thrall. Her mother was a black American and her father was a white Canadian, and sometimes Trethewey’s poems explore this in-between ancestry. Her poems also originate in artworks where black and mulatto figures appear.

What books of poetry/poets do you recommend to a new reader of poems?
I would recommend Frank Bidart’s Desire, Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, Czeslaw Milosz’s Road-side Dog, Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s Song, Marilyn Chin’s Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, C. P. Cavafy’s The Complete Poems, Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red, Sharon Olds’s The Dead and the Living, Derek Walcott’s The Star-Apple Kingdom, D. A. Powell’s Chronic: Poems, and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and Colossus. These are just some highly subjective and random recommendations.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I discovered poetry when I was 20. I was a shy, gay young man living in the South. Also, I was raised in a military and catholic household. Suddenly, I had things to say when I put pencil to paper.

What is the role of poetry in today’s world?
I think being a poet in the world opposes the very nature of the world, which is driven by monetary gain. There is no monetary gain in writing poetry. Still, there is value in it as a record of what is in our souls—love and hate, empathy and anger, and all the rest of the emotions that overwhelm us every day.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Last year, I read in a medium-security prison in Southern Illinois. The reading was in a gymnasium with about fifty attentive inmates. Afterwards, each prisoner shook my hand in gratitude. It was very moving.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
Yes, some poems embarrass me. The poems that embarrass me the most tend to be about intimate love-life stuff. Disappointments and failures in love, etc. But when I am writing these poems, I actually feel free. The poet must remain free. You can’t write poetry with a gun pointed at your head.

Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan.  He has published nine collections of poetry, including Middle Earth, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.  He has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Award, and the Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent collection is Nothing to Declare, and a memoir Orphic Paris was published by New York Review Books this spring.  He teaches at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Boston.   

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Sustainable Jersey: This is what a movement looks like

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Executive Director, Sustainable Jersey

NJ Sustainability Summit combines vision with action

The 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit confirmed my belief that we have a movement. We the people–we the green teams and environmental commissions, committed local citizens, business administrators and local leaders–we believe that we can make change from the bottom up for a sustainable New Jersey, and we are. We have a vision and we are taking action.

Over 350 change-makers from across the political, private and public sectors attended this year’s sold-out New Jersey Sustainability Summit on June 21, 2018.  The Sustainability Summit included an inspiring keynote address from First Lady Tammy Murphy, and a total of 12 breakout sessions with topics ranging from “Goin’ Green by Makin’ Green” and “It’s Electric” to “Plastic Pollution Solution.”  Thank you to everyone that participated for lending your time and talents to this endeavor.


As Sustainable Jersey approaches our ten-year anniversary, we’re starting to see the impact of our participants’ work at the local level. We have almost hit the eighty percent participation mark with 447 of New Jersey’s 565 towns engaged in the municipal certification program. Also, over 1,000 school districts and schools are participating in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program. Thousands of local volunteers and officials have dedicated their time and resources toward implementing Sustainable Jersey’s best practices and meeting the standards set by the program, and it’s making a difference. We’re creating a movement from the bottom up.

Take, for example, the current momentum in New Jersey to reduce single-use plastics. By completing Sustainable Jersey actions such as the Reusable Bag Education Program and the Recycling and Waste Reduction Education, and implementing innovative projects funded by Sustainable Jersey grants, municipalities and schools have been educating their communities about the single-use plastics problem for years.

Recently groups like Sustainable Downbeach formed and have taken this issue to the next level. Sustainable Downbeach is comprised of the Longport, Margate, Ventnor and Atlantic City green teams. The four Atlantic County municipalities have achieved Sustainable Jersey certification at the bronze-level and, through Sustainable Downbeach, were instrumental in helping Longport become the first municipality in New Jersey to adopt a carry-out bag fee ordinance in November 2015.

This was followed by resolutions in Galloway and Upper Township; a fee on bags in Teaneck and Ventnor; and bag bans in Jersey City, Long Beach, Monmouth Beach and Harvey Cedars, with Hoboken soon following suit. This issue is now being considered by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy at the state level with the state plastic and paper bag legislation. Based on guidance from the green teams, Sustainable Jersey is revising our plastics action in order to make it more impactful and relevant to the current situation. The movement is growing across the state, thanks to pressure and education provided by the green teams on the ground.

As an organization, Sustainable Jersey is in a unique position to be a connecting force between local communities and public, private and governmental entities. When communities act individually, they can solve their own problems; when they act together, the hope is that we can address challenges across New Jersey and then make progress on national and global problems.

We’re taking the same approach with our new Gold Star Standards in Energy and Waste, and soon in Water. A highlight of the Sustainability Summit was conferring an award to Woodbridge Township for being the first municipality to achieve the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy. If every municipality in New Jersey were to perform at the same level as Woodbridge, we would be achieving our goals for fighting climate change and reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

If you were not able to attend the 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit, below are a few videos, presentations and materials that you can review.

  • 2018 Sustainability Summit Videos: Watch the summit videos including the keynote address by New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, followed by a speech from the NJ Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso: http://www.sustainablejersey.com/media-communications/videos/
  • 2018 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report: The report suggests 57 goals that define a vision of sustainability for New Jersey. Each goal has indicators that provide clues as to how New Jersey is doing in achieving these sustainability goals. For each goal there is a brief assessment of our progress as a state. Also, the establishment of “Gold,” Sustainable Jersey’s highest level of certification, forges the link between the municipal program and the broader, long-term outcomes desired. This is outlined on the Gold Star Standard page.

·       Plenary & Breakout Session Presentations: All presentations from the plenary and breakout sessions are posted as individual PDFs on the 2018 Speaker Presentations page.

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn

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Ask a Poet: Alicia Ostriker

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 Academy of American Poets Chancellor Alicia Ostriker!


If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
When I tell a stranger I’m a poet and the stranger asks “What kind of poetry do you write?” I like to say I write poems about life and death, love and sex, family, the weather, the city, religion, politics, and art. Usually they have nothing to say after that. Sometimes I say I write poems to make people laugh and cry. Once it happened that a man in a suit who sat next to me on a plane looked at me condescendingly (you know the way they do?) when I said I was a poet, and asked “Are you published?” “Yes,” I answered. “I’ve published ten books.” He was quiet after that. And it happened just once that the person I was sitting next to on a plane turned out to have read my poetry. That was a treat!

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
As a student I wanted to be some combination of John Donne, John Keats, and Gerard Manly Hopkins. As an American, I’m a daughter of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg (all of them with New Jersey connections, by the way). As a woman, I wanted to write like H.D, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Lucille Clifton, Toi Derricotte, Marilyn Nelson, and so on and so forth…

What is the role of poetry in today’s world?
Same as always. It can find language for human experiences that never found language before, it can illuminate reality, it can shock, console, and awaken readers and listeners, it can attack, it can curse and bless, it can make beauty out of bitterness, it can fool around, it can tell stories, it can reach across boundaries, it can change your mind, it can change the world. Yes, it can. Maybe just a little. Auden was wrong. Poetry can make things happen, and more and more people are catching on to that.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
Years ago, I opened for Allen Ginsberg at the Bumbershoot Festival. B.B. King was playing at the other end of the festival grounds, but we were in some arena as big as Madison Square Garden (or so it seemed) and it was packed to the rafters. Being applauded by Allen’s fans–and they kept applauding till I did an encore–that was a thrill.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
Yes. Poems about my family. And then I shared them and the sky didn’t fall in.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dodge Poetry Festival?
Everything, really. But especially meeting poets I admire, and being awestruck. And I love the live music between the panels.

Alicia Ostriker has published fourteen volumes of poetry, including Waiting for the LightThe Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011; No Heaven; The Volcano Sequence; and The Imaginary Lover, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award. She was twice a National Book Award Finalist, for The Little Space (1998) and The Crack in Everything (1996). Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, Yale Review, Ontario Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Anthology, and many other journals and anthologies, and has been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic. Ostriker’s critical work includes the now-classic Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on American poetry from Walt Whitman to the present. 

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Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: NJ’s New Equal Pay and Paid Sick Leave Laws Provide Expanded Equitable Protections for Employees

Posted on by Christine Michelle Duffy, Pro Bono Partnership


New Jersey has enacted two new laws that will dramatically impact the workplace. Both laws aim to provide a more equitable workplace for minorities, women, and other lower-paid employees.

Each of the laws presents significant compliance challenges for employers, so I urge you to read the two articles that are linked to below.

  • Note: Both laws apply to all nonprofits and neither law contains a “small employer” exception.

Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act provides that it is an unlawful employment practice to discriminate in compensation or other financial terms and conditions of employment between persons doing substantially similar work based on an employee’s affectional or sexual orientation; age; ancestry, national origin, or nationality; atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, disability, or genetic information; gender identity or expression, pregnancy, or sex; civil union, domestic partnership, or marital status; color or race; creed or religion; or liability for service in the U.S. military.

In addition, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act:

  • Includes a six-year statute of limitations for claims alleging such discrimination, which is three times as long as the usual limitations period under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
  • Requires that an employee recover triple damages if a jury determines that an employer failed to pay equal compensation in compliance with the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act.

The breadth of the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act and the stiff penalties employers face for violating the law should help to narrow the wage gap that many minorities and women in New Jersey have faced for years. As Governor Murphy noted when the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act was enacted into law, “the only factors to determine a worker’s wages should be intelligence, experience and capacity to do the job. Pay equity will help us in building a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act was added to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the oldest and one of the broadest multi-purpose antidiscrimination laws in the United States. While some other states have laws requiring equal pay for substantially similar work, those laws are limited to discrimination based on sex. The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act reflects New Jersey’s continuing leadership in the fight against discrimination in the workplace.

To learn more about the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which went into effect on July 1, please read the article that Jim McDonnell and Beth Braddock, from the Jackson Lewis law firm, wrote for Pro Bono Partnership.

New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act

The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, requires nearly all New Jersey employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees during an employer-established “benefit year.” Employees are entitled to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. The law applies to part-time and full-time employees, including employees who are hired on a seasonal or temporary basis.

An eligible employee is entitled to take paid sick leave for any one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Time needed for diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery relating to the employee’s own mental or physical health condition, as well as for preventive medical care.
  2. Time needed for diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery relating to a family member’s mental or physical health condition, as well as for preventive medical care.
  3. Time needed as a result of an employee’s or family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including time off for counseling, accessing victim and legal services, relocation, or participation in any civil or criminal proceedings related to the violence.
  4. Time when the employee’s workplace or the school or place of childcare for the employee’s child is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or when the employee or a family member has been ordered quarantined by a public health authority.
  5. Time to attend certain school-related conferences, meetings, or other events requested or required by the school of an employee’s child, or to attend a meeting regarding care provided in connection with the child’s health conditions or disability.

The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act will provide sick leave benefits to a wide swath of employees who heretofore have not been provided such benefits, especially low-wage earners and part-time employees.

To learn more about the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act , which goes into effect on October 29, please read the article that Beth, Jim, and I wrote.

This post should not be construed as, and does not constitute, legal advice on any specific matter, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.  Organizations should seek advice relating to their unique circumstances from competent legal counsel.


Christine Michelle Duffy is New Jersey Program Director of Pro Bono Partnership and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog.  Christine is editor-in-chief and contributing author of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide.  In 2017, the treatise Employment Discrimination Law and Litigation recognized Christine as a leading theorist in the area of employment discrimination law.  To learn more about Pro Bono Partnership, or to donate, please visit www.probonopartner.org or call (973) 240-6955.

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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!


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


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!


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


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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