MFA Program Leads the Way at 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival

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It’s hard to say which has changed more since the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival moved to Newark in 2010: the city or the festival.

On alternating Octobers since then, downtown Newark has become a ground-zero for poetry and spoken-word performances, drawing luminaries and emerging poets alike, as well as up to 19,000 people from all over the world for the four-day event.

Likewise, the festival, started in 1986 and now in its 15th biennial year, has undergone a dramatic transformation of its own, having migrated from its original home in Waterloo Village, N.J., the restored 19th-century canal village in Byram Township, to Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and venues nearby.

Festival Director Martin Farawell said as much recently in a New York Times article, acknowledging that Newark has brought a new energy to the event, which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is one reason why: The campus’ nationally ranked MFA in Creative Program will figure prominently in the 2014 Dodge Festival.

Brenda ShaugnessyA. Van Jordan, RU-N’s first Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor, and Professor Brenda Shaughnessy will be reading or participating on panels all four days. Jordan and Shaughnessy, two of the brightest lights in contemporary American poetry, will take part in conversations on Poetry and Identity, Masculinity and Poetry, and other salient topics.

Saeed JonesRecent MFA graduate and 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee Saeed Jones, whose new book of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, has won rave reviews, will also be featured. He’ll take part in readings and a conversation titled Poetry and Pride, focusing on LGBT issues in poetry.

There also will be a special stand-alone MFA Reading event, which will feature readings by six current students from RU-N’s MFA Program. Professor Mark Doty, director of Writers House at Rutgers–New Brunswick, will also make several appearances during this year’s festival.

A Van Jordan“As a new faculty member, I’m enjoying being teamed up with a poet like Brenda Shaughnessy, whom I’ve respected for so long, and having the camaraderie of my colleagues at Rutgers-Newark,” says Jordan. “It’s great to be able to put that on display with Brenda, Saeed, and our students, who are remarkable, and it’s great to be able to bring that to the community.”

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While NJPAC is the Dodge Poetry Festival’s focal point, the Newark Museum, the NJ Historical Society, and Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art will also host some of the 120 readings, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, and special events on the festival’s program.

Festival tickets can be purchased by phone at 888-GO-NJPAC, in person at the box office at One Center Street (open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. when a performance is scheduled), or online at The full program, including event descriptions and festival poet biographies, is available at


Photos (top to bottom): Professor Brenda Shaughnessy, Saeed Jones '10, Professor A. Van Jordan