NJPAC hosts free, virtual poetry workshop and reading series in collaboration with City Verses
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) celebrates National Poetry Month with a free, virtual Newark-focused poetry workshop and reading series titled: "The Forest of Bricks: What We Call Home."
As part of City Verses, a jazz poetry initiative in partnership with Rutgers-Newark University and the Spring 2022 Virtual Reading and Poetry Workshop Series.
Newark poets Dimitri Reyes and Queen Mother Imakhu joined WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle to talk about the special events throughout the month of April.
Reyes, a Rutgers Newark MFA Graduate Poet, has been with City Versus since its inception and designed the curriculum.
His mentor, Queen Mother Imakhu, a Newark-based poet who serves on Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's Interfaith Clergy Council, is a guest poet in the series.
Reyes explains the title of the workshop series.
"The Forest of Bricks is a riff off a very close comparison to Sean Battle's first book, another Newark poet great, he currently runs EvoluCulture which is a syndicate that is a performance series, a space for artists, a place to build community. He's actually a Camden native who moved to Newark during his MFA at Rutgers-Newark. The Forest of Bricks and actually everything City Verses is an homage to all of those Newark voices both contemporary and throughout our history that exists here and still exists here. As a poet myself, my goal is to say that hey Newark is the Chicago, New York, and the LA of the literary arts, there's just amazing poets here. That's the aim when I'm curating and creating curricula for City Verses."
The series comprises four workshops and curated readings studying the works of and highlighting Newark poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. At the end of each workshop, each celebrated local poet reads and engages with the participants.
Queen Mother Imakhu is looking forward to the series, expressing her admiration for the work that Reyes has been doing as poet and an educator. She says she'll have a some special poems to bring to everyone.
"I'm very glad I was given the opportunity to be part of this series because it gave me the chance to actually do some digging into what my thoughts were over this pandemic, but also some pieces I had written a few years ago."
The celebrated local artist gave her thoughts on what makes a good poet.
"There are a lot of people who do the whole mimicking, you know parroting. Many people think that spoken word is poetry. We've had an explosion of spoken word and hip-hop and don't get me wrong, there's a skill to that as well but people think that just the whole performance art that goes along with that is what poetry is, but poetry, there is word art. There is thought, there is heart, there is intelligence, there is form, there is skill and also there is bringing all of yourself to the art and not just doing something that's just wrote. You can tell when somebody comes to the mic, if they're bringing all of themselves to what they're saying."
Dimitri Reyes, who reviews all of the poems that were submitted, enjoys giving back his gift to others, especially young people.
"I think it's super important that we teach poetry to the youth. I found poetry first through the old DARE programs in the city of Newark. And then later on I dropped it, and then in college I rediscovered it. But how many folks, how many of my personal homies and their kids don't get those opportunities. So it's really important as much as we can as artists, as educators, as community leaders to try and reach the youth in different pockets. This is a perfect situation. It is virtual, it is open to the public, it is free and we are honored enough to be on platforms with populations and audiences such as WBGO to spread that word."
When: Every Wednesday in April 4/6, 4/13, 4/20 + 4/27 @ 6:00-8:30 p.m. EST Where: Via Zoom (link provided upon registration) Who: General public and students ages 18+.
City Verses is also offering a summer poetry series for ages 13-18. Registration is now open. For more information or to register, visit NJPAC.org.
You can SEE the entire interview with Dimitri Reyes and Queen Mother Imakhu here.