The Dodge Poetry Festival is a four day festival that brings together poets from around the country to participate in readings, performances, and conversations staged in different venues around downtown Newark, New Jersey. For some, this festival is a biennial pilgrimage to keep in touch with live poetry.
“Aside from the honor of being one of the Festival poets, I was especially moved by how invested in community Dodge is,” said Francisco Aragón, Latino Studies Professor and Director of the Letras Latinas initiative at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. “The highlight, for me, was probably High School Day—when thousands of students make the journey to Newark to spend the day surrounded by poetry.”
Poetry is very much alive and relevant today, possibly now more than ever. The Festival sent a clear message, “Poetry isn’t remote or isolated. It’s not a historical artifact. It’s not only for the privileged. It’s in and of the present, on the streets, in our lives. Like music, dance, painting or drama, an appreciation for and connection to it is in our DNA. Poetry is one of the arts that make and keep us human.”
In addition to attending several sessions, Aragón was one of the invited Festival Poets and shared his work at the Newark Museum at an afternoon session on Saturday, October 20. He read from his previously published books, as well as his forthcoming collection, His Tongue a Swath of Sky.
The diverse group of poets and participants was inspiring and allowed Aragón to connect with other invited Latinx poets including Juan Felipe Herrera, Sandra Cisneros, and Rigoberto González, as well as a slate of terrific poets from CantoMundo, another national literary organization invested in Latinx poets.
As part of ILS’ academic program, the Letras Latinas initiative provides scholarly activities, brings emerging writers to campus to engage with students, and often partners with other Notre Dame departments and national organizations. Events typically take place on campus and Washington, D.C., where the ILS maintains a faculty office and a summer service learning course.
“The Letras Latinas initiative enhances the visibility, appreciation, and study of Latinx literature both on and off the campus of the University of Notre Dame,” ILS Director Luis R. Fraga, the Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C., Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership and Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science said. “Letras Latinas supports newer voices, fosters a sense of community among writers, and places Latinx writers in community spaces.”
To learn more about this initiative and view past oral histories with writers, visit Letras Latinas on the ILS website.