By Carlee Berkenkemper
Elm Staff Writer
Gwendolyn Books, Allen Ginsburg, William Stafford, and Chinua Achebe are just a few of the great names in poetry that have graced the stage of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.
Since 1986, the four-day gathering has been hosted every two years and has become the largest gathering of poetry-lovers in North America.
According to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program website, the biennial festival is “the one place where the most influential poets from a wide range of schools of poetry — from Poets Laureate to Slam Champions — have routinely shared the same stage.”
On Saturday, Oct. 20, Washington College’s Writers’ Union co-sponsored a trip to the event with funding assistance from the English Department’s Thawley Fund.
The festival was held in Newark, New Jersey in the Downtown Arts District from Oct. 18-21 and is estimated to have attracted anywhere from 14,000 to 17,000 people.
Sophomore MacKenzie Brady, president of the Writers’ Union, attended the event and is already anticipating the next festival in 2020.
“It was amazing getting to see and hear so many amazing poets read and talk about their work. It was my first time going, and I got so much from the experience,” she said.
English Department Chair Dr. Kathryn Moncrief and Dr. James Hall, director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and associate professor of English, collaborated to assist the Writers’ Union in organizing the trip.
“It is an empowering experience for WC students, who get an idea of the many different kind of poetries that exist in America, not to mention the vital work of community-building and personal expression that poetry can achieve,” Dr. Hall said.
For students from a small college like WC, who sometimes feel isolated from the outside world, exposure to different forms of poetry can serve to illuminate current issues.
“There is an incredible range of voices, and the festival has been very good about including voices that usually are marginalized in our country,” Dr. Hall said.
Although the festival will not occur for another two years, there are plenty of opportunities for poets and poetry enthusiasts to be involved with campus events in the meantime.
The Literary House will soon be hosting the First-Year Reading, an annual event that gives participating students the opportunity to read their own work — including poetry — in front of an audience.
The Writers’ Union will be hosting a rehearsal for the event, and encourages interested students to attend their weekly meetings on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Literary House.