Going virtual with #DPF20

Every other year since 1986, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival has often gone off with hardly a discernible hitch. But life, of course, has its twists and turns, and the Festival has prevailed through some really unexpected ones.

Who could forget the Festival in 2004, when a deluge of rain turned the grounds at Duke Farms into a muddy poetry wonderland?

High School Students at the 2004 Dodge Poetry Festival held at Duke Farms.

And you might recall that during our last Festival in 2018, an underground transformer fire in downtown Newark caused the entire Festival footprint to lose power on Saturday evening. We cancelled our programming that night, but resumed first thing Sunday morning!

Now, in the 2020 Festival year, we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic that makes large gatherings like our Festival potentially dangerous for the people we care about so much: our audiences, Festival Poets, Dodge personnel, New Jersey Performing Arts Center staff, and Newark residents who support us as volunteers and site crew.

Some 2018 Festival Poets at dinner. Photo by Alex Towle Photography.

So, how are we adapting to this unexpected turn of events?

This year, we’re going virtual.

A fully-online 2020 Dodge Poetry Festival will stream into homes around the globe this fall. We’ll share readings and conversations, panel talks, performances, and opportunities for you to interact with Festival Poets and other attendees.

The Festival Poets and Academy of American Poets’ Chancellors, announced last fall, will still be joining us, and we’ll be announcing additional poets and performers over the next few months. 

Dodge Poetry Festival 2018 681 Dodge Poetry Festival Newark, New Jersey 10/18-21, 2018 Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.net

In the name of access and equity, live streaming of the 2020 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival will be offered online at no charge. Performances on-demand will be available to the general public for a nominal subscription fee. Schools and teachers that register in advance will have free full access. We will continue to support diverse poets by also providing relief for COVID-19’s impact on nonprofit organizations that support poets of color, the LGBTQ community, and poets with disabilities.

Representatives from the NJPAC Box Office will be reaching out to current ticket holders in the next few days to issue them a full refund.

NJPAC Box Office staff and volunteers assisting attendees at the 2018 Festival. Photo by Alex Towle Photography.

Over the years, each time a big curveball has come our way, we’ve watched as Festival Poets and attendees, venue partners, and volunteers have responded with graciousness, good humor, and dedication to making something beautiful out of the change in plans. Without a doubt, the poetry community is remarkably resilient and kind.   

We’re sad that we won’t all be together in-person this year, and disappointed that our 10-year anniversary of hosting the Festival in Newark won’t take place physically in Newark.

But we’re also excited to expand the Dodge Poetry Festival community and provide greater access to contemporary poetry and poets. As we design the virtual Festival, we will keep at its core everything that makes the Dodge Poetry Festival so special: poetry, community, connection, and heart.

Thanks for making the Festival so special for over 30 years. We can’t wait to see you online this fall.

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