Something Old, Something New (Jersey)
An Afternoon of Poetry to Celebrate the State’s 350th Birthday
CavanKerry Press and Hoboken Historical Museum
April 6, 2014, 3 p.m., at the Hoboken Museum, 1301 Hudson St.
For a small state, New Jersey has produced, or been home to, a disproportionate number of poets who shaped, and reshaped, 19th and 20th century American poetry through their innovative work: Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Joyce Kilmer, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka – to name a few. The state continues to be fertile territory for contemporary poets, as the home of such notable poets as Herschel Silverman, Alicia Ostriker, and Hoboken’s own Joel Lewis, Danny Shot and Eliot Katz.
The Museum is pleased to team up with CavanKerry Press to celebrate the state’s 350th birthday with a showcase bridging the past and present of New Jersey poetry at the Hoboken Historical Museum on Sunday, April 6, at 3 p.m. All are welcome, and the event is free, thanks to support from the New Jersey Historical Commission.
This two-hour public event will feature 10 contemporary New Jersey poets reading poems written by their historic predecessors, as well as a poem of their own. In addition to the above-mentioned poets, other contemporary poets reading at the event will be Teresa Carson, Vivian Demuth, Cat Doty, Reg E. Gaines, Joan Cusack Handler, and Rich Villar. Dr. Mary Rizzo, Public Historian in residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers—Camden, will introduce the program, providing historical context on these great New Jersey poets and give insights into the importance of their works in American literary history. Dr. Rizzo formerly served as the Associate and Interim Executive Director for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and collaborated with CavanKerry Press on an innovative program called Poetry Heals, which brings trained poets into hospitals to facilitate workshops for healthcare professionals, helping them use poetry to develop their deep listening, speaking, and thinking skills. She has been actively involved in the planning to commemorate the 350th anniversary of New Jersey, serving on the education committee.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892, lived final two decades in Camden) is America’s most renowned, most influential and, many agree, its greatest poet ever. He aimed to be the first “national expresser,” the first American poet to put in words what was “common to all” Americans. Reading by Joan Cusack Handler.
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963, Rutherford) is known as an experimenter, an innovator, and a revolutionary figure in American poetry. He was a core member of the Imagist movement, which was a reaction against the rigid and ordered poetry of the late 19th and early 20th century. Reading by Joel Lewis.
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918, b. New Brunswick, moved to Mahwah as an adult) is mainly remembered for a short poem titled “Trees,” which begins, “I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree.” As Thomas Vinciguerra wrote in The New York Times, it is a “work [that] needs no explanation.” Reading by Vivian Demuth.
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997, b. Newark, lived in Paterson), one of the most respected Beat writers and acclaimed poets of his generation, holds a prominent place in post-WWII American culture. His 1956 Whitman-inspired poem, “Howl,” stunned many critics and is widely considered a revolutionary event in American poetry. Reading by Eliot Katz.
Herschel Silverman (b. 1926, has lived in Bayonne since the 1950s) was a contemporary of and friend to the major Beat poets—Ginsberg, Corso, Olson. Though influenced by the Beats, his voice is distinct, intertwining the seemingly contradictory concepts of hipness and familial bliss. Silverman will present his own work.
Alicia Ostriker (b. 1937, lives in Princeton) “has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression…is essential to our understanding of our American selves,” in the words of Joyce Carol Oates. Ostriker is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University. Ostriker will present her own work.
Stephen Dunn (b. 1938, has lived in Port Republic and Ocean City) is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, reflecting the social, cultural, psychological, and philosophical territory of the American middle class. Dunn won a Pulitzer Prize for his book Different Hours (2000), and has taught at the Richard Stockton College of NJ. Reading by Cat Doty.
Robert Pinsky (b. 1940, Long Branch) is one of America’s foremost poets/critics. His verse reflects his concern for a contemporary poetic diction that nonetheless speaks of a wider experience. Pinsky was U.S. poet laureate from 1997–2000, and launched the Favorite Poems Project, wherein ordinary Americans read their favorite poems for an audio archive at the Library of Congress. Reading by Rich Villar.
Amiri Baraka (1934-2014, Newark) was an influential poet, author and playwright, as well as actor, teacher, theater director/producer, and activist. Considered one of the revolutionary provocateurs of African-American poetry, he was appointed poet laureate of New Jersey in 2002. Reading by Reg E. Gaines.
Jack Wiler (1951-2009, grew up in Wenonah, lived in Jersey City) was a key figure in the Slam poetry movement at the Nuyorican Poetry Café in NYC, and possessed a singular and unmistakable poetic voice. Through the Dodge Foundation’s Poetry in the Schools program, he worked with many teachers and students. Reading by Teresa Carson/Danny Shot.
The organizers of the event are Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher of CavanKerry Press, and Danny Shot, former editor/publisher of Long Shot Magazine, and a poet and English teacher, along with Robert Foster, Executive Director of the Hoboken Historical Museum. Carson is a poet as well as publisher at the not-for-profit literary press, which has been based in Fort Lee, NJ, since its inception in 2000. She has coordinated events such as poetry readings, book parties and fundraising events, including statewide community outreach programs for CavanKerry Press. Danny Shot teaches English at Brooklyn Tech High School. He co-founded Long Shot Magazine with Eliot Katz in the early 1980s. He has performed at, as well as coordinated, events throughout the region.
1664 – The Year New Jersey Began
The colonial history of New Jersey started after Henry Hudson sailed through Newark Bay in 1609. Although Hudson was British, he worked for the Netherlands, so he claimed the land for the Dutch, who called it New Netherlands. Small trading colonies sprang up where the present towns of Hoboken and Jersey City are located. The Dutch, Swedes, and Finns were the first European settlers of the land that was home to the Delaware Indians.
In 1664 the British took control of the land and added it to their colonies. King Charles II of England granted a sizeable parcel of land to his brother James, Duke of York. James in turn gave a piece of this valuable real estate to two loyal noblemen, Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley, who divided the land in half and officially renamed it New Jersey, after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, where Carteret had been governor. The document that records this transaction, now housed at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, proclaims, “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea [sic] or New Jersey.” And so New Jersey was born.