Celebrating Poetry at Seneca High School

Posted on by Dodge

“I knew I wanted to write this poem for twenty years, and I tried many times and failed. It’s about a pretty traumatic thing that happened when I was a kid. I just didn’t have the angle—I didn’t know how to get my reader into my childhood world. Then my sister reminded me of these mermaid commercials we used to love when we were kids and I knew that the mermaids would be the metaphor that would help me tell my story. That’s when I finally wrote this poem and was happy with it.”

–Cat Doty, Dodge Poet, referring to her poem “Breathing Under Water”

C Salvatore with Students at Seneca HS

Christine Salvatore (middle) with Riley Alber, Seneca High School (left) and Danielle Young, Seneca High School (right)

Smiling Students at Seneca HS's Mini Poetry Festival

David Olivere, Seneca High School and Josie Navarro, Cherokee High School

Last Friday, over 75 students from the Lenape Regional High School District (Burlington County) had the rare treat of hearing about the writing process directly from accomplished, published poets who work in the Dodge Poetry Program. The poets shared their challenges, their motivations and their passion for poetry over the course of the day, hosted by Seneca High School.

Assistant Principal John Bowden makes poetry a priority at Seneca. He invites students and staff from the district’s other high schools: Shawnee, Cherokee and Lenape, and he arranges everything needed for the day. In their fourth annual Dodge Poetry Mini-Festival on March 11th, Seneca hosted three Dodge poets: Cat Doty, Charles Johnson and Christine Salvatore.

The day’s program included small-group sessions with poets where they shared poetry—not only their own poems, but poems of other writers who interest them. Students had the chance to ask the poets questions in an open discussion. Charles, Cat and Christine gave students an inside view of how writers approach their work—whom they like to read, how much they revise their work, where they find inspiration and what they do when they’re not feeling inspired. The day closed with a reading by the Dodge Poets, and an open mic for students.

Cat Doty with teachers

Cat Doty (file photo)

Randy Latini, a Creative Writing and English Teacher at Shawnee High School hoped that the day would give his students “a greater appreciation of the dedication required to be a writer.” He also found inspiration for his teaching. “Getting the opportunity to talk to the poets was great for me. I showed them a new activity I’ve been doing with my students and all the poets were receptive and supportive. This is my fourth year attending this festival with my students and I always leave with a renewed love of poetry. This year was no exception.”

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program co-sponsors school festivals in New Jersey high schools. For more information, contact Michele Russo, Poetry Coordinator, mrusso@grdodge.org.

Did you know that the Dodge Poetry Program has a YouTube channel? Take a look – view video clips from past Festivals! You can also join the conversation on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @dodgepoetryfest. See you there!

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