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This article by Carolyn Foote Edlemann was prepared for the
September 29, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Dodge Poetry Blossoms at Duke Gardens
Godfather of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Jim Haba, meets
me in the parking lot behind the main gate of Duke Farms. For the next
couple of hours, Jim conjures scenes of the decade-old celebration of
poetry, soon to unfold upon and near the Great Lawn. From Thursday,
September 30, through Sunday, October 3, gatherings of teachers,
students, poets, writers, and readers will be royally entertained
among sylvan scenes right out of Thomas Constable’s landscapes.
Haba drives along roads and across expansive fields where the public
has been excluded for 75 years. Although financial wizard James B.
(Buck) Duke planned a mansion on these undulating grounds, only its
foundation ever saw reality. Planting continued apace, however, and
ornate bridges and waterways evoking Venice itself were installed. His
daughter, philanthropist Doris Duke, had permitted outsiders to stroll
and picnic beneath the spreading trees, chestnut and otherwise.
However, public heedlessness ended the open-gate policy – until now.
As poetry director for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Haba is
elated now that "things have moved out of subterranean mode, into the
real." Asked what impact the new venue will have on the legendary
festival, Haba says: "I’m hoping that elevated possibilities flow from
the scale and nature of this setting." For the first time, he’s been
able to design the event layout itself, "cohesively, to reinforce the
riches in the program." The main tent, for example, will reside
appropriately at Festival Center, encircled by ancillary performance
sites. There will be a generous food court. Smaller food tents will be
scattered about the opulent grounds. Meals, snacks, and beverages have
never been available in more poetic surroundings.
Haba seems most gratified over 21st-century links to festivals past.
Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell will present one of their legendary
"Conversations in Poems," as they did in 1986 and in 1988. Their topic
– marriage. Expect unlikely perspectives from these fiery poets.
Festival traditions Coleman Barks and Paul Winter of Consort fame will
co-present Jelaluddin Rumi’s sensual 13th century poetry Saturday at 8
Haba enthuses over new festival performers: "Benjamin Bagby!," he
exclaims. "I’ve heard him at Lincoln Center and Vassar. He is a
Medieval singer, first to major at Oberlin in that music. This man
opens a window into the core of the oral tradition" – in other words,
where poetry began as recited history. Bagby will perform his Beowulf
at the Dodge Festival, adding a preview of his second segment, to
premier at Lincoln Center in 2005.
Bards and troubadors were especially challenged to convey their art
newly for each village, each community. For each of these festivals,
Haba has spearheaded a new village of poets and poetry.
Apart from its newsworthy site, 2004’s Dodge Poetry Festival will be
"Pulitzer Central" – with a strong New Jersey emphasis. Franz Wright,
2004 winner, will be joined by Rita Dove, Galway Kinnell, Philip
Levine, Stephen Dunn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Paul Muldoon, and C.K.
Williams. (Note that the last four in this roster are Princeton
University-based.) Kinnell, having taught in the university’s creative
writing program, also has a connection with Princeton. also, having
been a professor in the university’s creative writing program.
The festival’s star-studded poetic array also includes recent United
States Poet Laureate Billy Collins, along with Adonis, Donald Hall,
Coleman Barks (famed for translations of Rumi), Lucille Clifton, Mark
Doty, Ed Hirsch, Sharon Olds, and countless others, all astutely
selected by Haba.
In the traditional "Poets Among Us" program, more than 30 renowned
writers will read, including Princeton University luminaries Jim
Richardson and Joyce Carol Oates. Expect Catherine Doty;
Lawrenceville’s Eloise Bruce, whose new book, Rattle, is attracting
significant notice; Sander Zulauf, editor of the richly varied Journal
of New Jersey Poets, and many others.
Music at the 2004 festival will feature the intensely creative Paul
Winter Consort. This evocative group once had its audience howling
with wolf melodies in the Princeton University Chapel. The Yarina
brothers – whose "music of the earth" emerges from Pan pipes, flutes
and drums – will stroll the grounds and accompany selected poets. Dave
Douglas, jazz trumpeter and composer, will weave new harmonies around
the words of Stanley Kunitz, Samuel Becket, Adrienne Rich, and
Jim Haba has not only designed, organized, and produced all 10
festivals, he is also a prize-and-fellowship-winning poet in his own
right. Haba may be the most accomplished poetry-introducer of all time
– seemingly balancing each writer’s entire body or work at his
fingertips. Haba’s eloquence and broad experience of these
international poets has been stunningly evidenced in Bill Moyers
series for PBS, including "The Power of the Word." Haba serves as
poetry consultant to Moyers on a regular basis. In his spare time,
Haba manages Poetry in the Schools for the Geraldine R. Dodge
Foundation. This program sends rigorously selected poets into New
Jersey high schools and enhances poetic experience among New Jersey
teachers throughout the academic year.
It is fitting that the 10th Biennial Dodge Poetry Festival be the one
to move to a new environment. Since the earliest Waterloo Village
days, expansion of the literary reputation of the festival has been
exponential, as has its financial backing. Haba and other
decision-makers were well aware that Festival was outgrowing its
traditional site. Every other autumn, poets and poetry fans from all
over the globe had eagerly flooded Waterloo for this, the largest
poetry event in North America. Waterloo tents and outbuildings soon
overflowed, with SRO being the norm.
This year, capacious tents will rise on 120 acres of Duke Farms, a
2,700-acre park. The stunning natural site provides a variety of
venues for familiar poetry readings, conversations on the writing
life, and traditional musical performances. Arrayed on and near the
Great Lawn, even the smallest tents will enclose 150 people. The big
tent accomodates 3,400 people. Haba expects Duke Farms’ crossroads
site – near Routes 206, and 287 – as well as public curiosity about
these newly opened grounds to significantly swell participant ranks.
An audience well beyond the 18,000 of 2002 is now likely.
The Geraldine R. Dodge/Doris Duke synergy is particularly appropriate
– both foundations were established by outspoken, visionary New Jersey
women. Each evinced lifelong commitment to the arts, as well as to the
natural environment. Doris Duke was one of the first to preserve New
Jersey’s vanishing agricultural landscape, purchasing and restoring a
number of 19th-century farms along the estate’s western boundary. The
Dodge Festival will be the first large-scale public event at the
historic Duke Farms, one of the state’s largest privately owned open
Festival participants may also buy tickets to visit the Duke estate’s
acclaimed greenhouse display gardens, launched by Doris Duke in 1958.
Her vision – continuously maintained and expanded – was to showcase
not only plants, but also the cultures of the world. The results
shimmer under glass – floral evocations of the universality of Dodge
Poetry Festivals. The mission of the Dodge Foundation is to "support
and encourage educational, cultural, social, and environmental values
that contribute to making our society more humane and our world more
livable." Doris Duke’s Charitable Foundation announces its mission to
"improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the
performing arts, wildlife conservation, medical research, and the
prevention of child maltreatment."
Deer abound at Duke Farms, light striking them in shadowed copses, so
that J.M.W. Turner’s Petworth canvases literally leap to life. The
idyllic backdrop for some of the world’s finest poets is not without
gentle dangers, however. New Jersey residents know by now to wear long
sleeves, long pants, and closed shoes with high socks, when spending
time in grassy groves – lest a dread deer tick interrupt the poetry.
Dodge Poetry Festival, September 30 to October 3 at Duke Farms, 80
Route 206 South, Hillsborough. Main Stage events are CART-captioned
for those with hearing impairments. Trails have been wheelchair-tested
and the festival does not provide shuttles. For tickets, call
866-548-3378 or visit www.telecharge.com. Remaining tickets will be on
sale, from 7 a.m. daily, at the Poetry Festival Box Office at Duke
Farms, beginning September 30.
There are student prices with valid student identification, as well as
senior discounts for those over 62. Discounted evening-only tickets
may be purchased after 4 p.m. on the first three Festival days.
Constantly updated festival site: www.dodgepoetryfestival.org.
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