Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Anyone who saw Benjamin Bagby’s riveting recitation of Beowulf at the 2004 Festival, which merged dramatic performance, singing, incantation and storytelling, had a glimpse into what a performance by an ancient bard might have been like. It is believed that Homer accompanied his readings of the Illiad and Odyssey with a lyre or a drum, and that he half-chanted half-sung the lines to the rhythm of the accompanying beat. (This would make him one of our first rappers.)
The oral tradition existed for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years before we drew distinctions between actor, poet, singer and storyteller. Music and storytelling have always been an integral part of the Dodge Poetry Festival, in part to honor the ancient common source of poetry, story and song. The 2010 Festival continues this practice with an exciting line-up of storytellers and musicians.
Nashville-based spoken-word artist Minton Sparks fuses music, poetry and storytelling to transport her audiences into the lives of the southern country folk whose stories she tells with great compassion and humor. Described as “the ghost child of Flannery O’Connor and Hank Williams,” Sparks will perform several times at varied locations during the Festival. She is a true original, and unlike any storyteller we’ve had at the Festival.
Word-Music ensemble Blue Ark will be performing with Amiri-Baraka in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater on Saturday morning in “Poetry and Music: an Exploration.” This performance/discussion/improvisation will explore the connections between jazz, the blues and poetry, bridging the gap between the ancient griots and contemporary hip-hop artists.
Latin Jazz great Bobby Sanabria will be performing with his Quarteto Aché on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday night, Bobby and the quartet will accompany Martín Espada during his reading. On Sunday afternoon, they will take part in a special celebration of some of the most influential twentieth century Spanish language poets, including Lorca and Neruda, in a bi-lingual reading featuring Martín Espada and Nancy Morejón.
And of course, Ecuadorian musicians Yarina, beloved by Festival audiences after many years, will once again be strolling the Festival grounds and welcoming us all into the 2010 Poetry Festival Village.
If you haven’t purchased your Festival tickets yet, keep in mind that all events this year are taking place in performance venues that, unlike open-sided tents, have fixed seating capacities. If you want to guarantee a seat for the evening events, you should purchase your tickets in advance.
Return in the weeks ahead for updates on the 2010 Poetry Festival.