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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter

My Birthday and A Lovely Surprise

April 9th was my birthday. I went out to lunch with my daughter and two grandchildren, then visited with them a bit. That evening I went out for dinner and dancing with the local HOPE group— a grief support group of widows and widowers here in South Jersey. We meet Wednesday mornings to discuss a helpful curriculum and go out to lunch together after each meeting—as well as go to movies, concerts, and restaurants with dance floors and live music. This last part is a whole new thing for me, and I love doing it. (If you’ve read my post for HNA 2009 in Ottawa, you saw photos of me dancing for the first time in years on an Ottawa River boat cruise.) It helps to share the grief process with others who have been there, and it’s fun to have social events to look forward to.

But now for the lovely surprise: When I got home from dinner and dancing, I found a message from Martin Farawell, Director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program, inviting me to be a “Festival Poet” and read at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival. What a great birthday present! Of course I accepted with pleasure and am really looking forward to it. The Festival runs from Thursday evening, October 7th, through Sunday afternoon, October 10th, in the downtown Arts District of Newark, New Jersey. I’ll be reading sometime on the weekend with two other Festival Poets in an hour-long reading—-each of us to read for about 17 to 18 minutes. I’ve already booked a room in the designated Festival Hotel, the Robert Treat, which is right across the street from the Performing Arts Center where the main events will be happening.

Bill and I read at the very first Dodge Festival in 1986, and then were invited back to conduct workshops for teachers and students in 1988, 1990, and even in 1992 after we’d already moved to Santa Fe. But after that, we couldn’t fly back for very many Festivals. When we moved back to New Jersey in 2002, we were very glad to be able attend the 2002, 2004, and 2006 Festivals. Sadly, though, we never made the 2008 Festival because Bill was either in the ICU or had just died. (I don’t remember which). I hadn’t expected to be asked to read again, and I am both honored and grateful—and very excited. You can google the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival and find lots of information about the “largest Poetry Festival in the nation.” You can learn which poets will be there—on a page which the Dodge folks are continually updating. Hope to see you there!

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