Dodge Festival

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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

September 23, 1998. All rights reserved.

Poems From Nature & Beyond

I love music and I like words for the way they sound

like music," says poet Joan Goldstein. "Language can be music,

especially in poetry — poetry comes closest to music in that


Goldstein’s love of words and music come together in her program,

"Men on Ice: Poems from Nature," presented with musicians

Olga Gorelli, Lawana Ingle, John Burkhalter, and Barbara Highton


at the 1860 House, Montgomery Cultural Center, Sunday, September 27,

at 4 p.m.

The concert includes the premiere performance of Goldstein’s poem,

"The Rain," set to music composed and performed by Olga


with soprano singer Lawana Ingle. Other featured poems are


and "The Ice Man," both accompanied by musician and


John Burkhalter on instruments that include a Swedish flute, stone

ax heads, a rasp, and a pre-Columbian Mayan drum. Also on the program

is "Cuando Viene La Primavera," another Goldstein and Gorelli

collaboration, recently performed at Westminster Choir College.


Barbara Highton Williams of the Westminster Conservatory interleaves

her musical interludes on flute with poems read by Goldstein.

Goldstein’s poems draw on her own images of nature, from sunlit and

frozen landscapes to real and mythical creatures, in order to express

the force of human emotions and longings. The unifying theme of the

"Men on Ice" reading is seasonal: it starts with fall, moves

on to winter, then early spring, then summer. "As the program

goes on, it gets lighter, and the poems get lighter, too."

Goldstein says her "Men on Ice" poems were written from life

last January during a writers’ workshop she was leading for the


Mountain Club at the Delaware Water Gap. "I had never been there

after Thanksgiving before, and the whole of Catfish Pond was


frozen," she recalls. "I wrote while I was watching them,

sitting on a log." Goldstein returned to the pond the following

day and read her poem to the fisherman. "They liked it, and I

asked them a lot of questions about the process. The second poem is

full of the information that I got from them."

A research sociologist, Goldstein’s professional work has focused

on the impact of human beings on the environment. She is a professor

and consultant for faculty development at Mercer County Community


"I need to be outside to write these poems," says Goldstein,

who also enjoys outdoor sketching. "I’m very visual and I get

my inspiration from what I see and what I feel. Then I just let it

go like a sketch. I don’t stop and examine the meaning of what I’ve

written, I just let whatever come through, come through. Later, I’ll

go back over it for some editing. But I don’t know how the listener

is going to interpret it — they get to put their own story


Goldstein grew up in New York, began writing at age 10, and continued

writing poetry as teenager. "I’m going to read a poem that I wrote

when I was 15 — `The Sea is a Weary Man’ — that is so much

in keeping with what I’m doing now that it’s startling." She studied

literature and writing at the University of Iowa, and studied with

Donald Justice and John Berryman at its famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

A second-generation American, Goldstein’s grandparents

were immigrants from Rumania who could neither read nor write. Her

father and uncle had a wholesale florist business together. Her mother

played the piano, and also used to read Shakespeare to her and her

brother at bedtime, to which she attributes her love of literature.

Two poems of death and grieving that are part of the poetry reading

commemorate the life and death of her only brother, Michael Joseph

Goldstein, a UCLA scholar known for his research on schizophrenia,

who died of cancer last year.

Goldstein asked each collaborating musician to make their own choice

of how to treat the poems. "I gave each musician different set

of poems that I thought would work best for them. And each musician

that I chose to work with brought a different dimension to it. There

was an element of surprise for everybody."

Goldstein and Gorelli met through the Belle Mead Friends of Music.

Gorelli, who began composing music as a child in her native Italy,

studied in the United States with Gian Carlo Menotti, Paul Hindemith,

and Darius Milhaud. The collaboration was "a marvelous and


experience," she says. "It was one of those serendipitous

surprises in life that lend themselves to something unexpected."

Men on Ice: Poems from Nature, Montgomery Cultural

Center , 1860 House, 124 Montgomery Road, 609-921-3272. $10.

Sunday, September 27, 4 p.m.

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Dodge Festival

New Jersey is truly The Poetry State this week when

the seventh biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival gets under

way at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, bringing together over 100 poets

and as many as 12,000 poetry devotees for four days of readings,


and conversations about poetry and the poet’s life. The event


poetry’s role as "the pounding heart of the gift of speech,"

says Scott McVay, Princeton resident and retiring executive director

of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The Dodge Poetry Festival is

the largest in North America and takes place from Thursday, September

24, through Sunday, September 27.

Festivalgoers can hear readings by featured poets that include U.S.

poet laureate Robert Pinsky, MacArthur Fellow Adrienne Rich,


Prize Winners Galway Kinnell, Stanley Kunitz, and W.S. Merwin, and

Emmy award winner Lucille Clifton. Also featured are Marjorie Agosin,

Amiri Baraka, Coleman Barks, Loma Dee Cervantes, Bei Dao, Mark Doty,

Deborah Garrison, Jane Hirshfield, Kurtis Lamkin, Tato Laviera,


Geok-lin Lim, Paul Muldoon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Sharon Olds, Alicia

Ostriker, and Marge Piercy.

There is music by the Paul Winter Consort and Yarina, an Andean Flute

Ensemble. The festival also hosts a festival bookstore, that boasts

one of the most extensive collections of poetry books (16,000 copies)

assembled in one place. On Saturday and Sunday, festival participants

can work with the best by attending "Conversations on Craft"

with featured poets and share their own poems in more intimate writing


This year’s featured poets promise the wide range of styles and


often addressed in contemporary poetry. "Every new poem is like

finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their

coupling," says the now 93-year-old Stanley Kunitz, who rearranges

the sounds of language as he does the flowers in his garden. Amiri

Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones, has achieved international stature as

a poet, dramatist, essayist, and political activist. His poems and

plays, including the Obie Award winning "Dutchman," express

his consciousness of the political problems and esthetic possibilities

facing ethnic artists in America.

Galway Kinnell, Mark Doty, and W.S. Merwin look to the natural world

for insights, while the poetry of Deborah Garrison and Robert Pinsky

often finds nourishment in contemporary urban life. Garrison charts

with honesty and humor the terrain of urbane, post-single life, and

Pinsky reminds us of poetry’s capacity to "record information

compactly. It’s how we make ourselves smart."

Agosin and Dao are expatriates from Chile and China whose political

activism informs their lives and their poetry. Adrienne Rich writes

in a language that insists on the complexity of contemporary political

experience. Marge Piercy uses both poetry and science fiction to


social, ecological, and economic injustices.

Irish poet Paul Muldoon, a faculty member at Princeton University,

uses etymology to reinvigorate words by calling attention to their

forgotten roots. Coleman Barks will read both his own poems about

family and Southern life and, accompanied by the Paul Winter Consort,

his translations of the ecstatic poems of Rumi, a 13th-century mystic

poet who — thanks to Barks — has become one of the most widely

read poets of our time.

And Charles H. Johnson of Plainsboro, who has had poems accepted in

U.S. 1 Summer Fiction issues, will read his poem "Rearview


Johnson, a copy desk editor at the Home News Tribune, wrote "Road

Hog" for U.S. 1’s July 29 fiction issue.

Over 12,000 people attended the 1996 Festival, which is the subject

of a three-hour PBS series, "Poetry Heaven." The 1994 festival

served as the subject of Bill Moyers’ PBS series, "The Language

of Life."

Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Waterloo Village,

973-540-8442, extension 139. $16 for day/evening combination; $12

students and seniors. Sunday or evening only, $10. Tickets can be

purchased at the gate, or from Ticketmaster, 201-507-8900.


September 24, through Sunday, September 27.

Tickets for each Conversation on Craft session is an additional $20

(attendance limit 40), and for each Writing Workshop, an additional

$30 (limit 8). Preregistration is encouraged but on-site registration

may be available.

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