Friday Oct. 19, High School North students had the opportunity to attend the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ. The festival, held every two years, was launched as a major initiative by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in 1986 and is regarded as the largest poetry event in North America.
In attendance from HSN were multiple groups and clubs including Polaris and advisor Anthony Domino; Class of 2019 and advisor Robyn Albanese; Nautical Star Theater Company and advisor Carolyn Little; Creative Writing and teacher Leslie LaRose; Theater Arts and teacher Kirsten Mycklebust; and Humanities and English and teacher Stephanie Reid.
Once in the heart of the downtown arts district in Newark, students and chaperones followed schedules to learn from some of the most brilliant and internationally-celebrated writers of our time. Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, Woman Hollering Creek, and many other short stories and poems opened the festival with a reading of "Eleven." A session followed every reading where students were able to question famous writers in regards to poetry, techniques, and publishing. Students interacted with poet and novelist Sapphire, author of Push, later turned into the movie Precious (2009), as well as other noteworthy poets Jericho Brown, Krista Tippett, Ross Gay, Danez Smith, and Jenny Xie.
The day was packed with activities that also included browsing the New Jersey Performing Arts Academy Bookstore, watching open-mic performances in Military Park, and sampling delicious foods from local venues.
“The purpose of this trip was not only to be inspired, but to bring inspiration back to Toms River High School North in poetic form,” said Reid, who served as festival coordinator for HSN. “I think we have achieved the first half of our mission, and now our group will work together to complete the second half. ”
Reid’s plans include working with High School ELA Supervisor Tonya Rivera to promote a school-wide competition to find a finalist for the New Jersey Poetry Out Loud state competition held at Count Basie Theater in February of 2019. Additionally, as part of the district's NEA Big Read program that will run from mid-February through March 28, 2019, the duo is arranging a mini-poetry festival to be hosted at RWJBarnabas Health Arena in partnership with the Dodge Foundation, which will serve as the program's kickoff event.