MHS Poetry Festival

The Madison High School Poetry Festival is a popular, collaborative effort between MEF and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. 

The day is full of poetry readings, question and answer sessions, and lectures. Six poets highlighted the 2016 program: Robert Carnevale, Cat Doty, Roberto Carlos Garcia, Yesenia Montilla, B.J. Ward, and Ysabel Gonzalez.  In one English class, B.J. Ward spoke to students about what it means to be a poet and…. why write poetry? Ward challenged students to think and express social issues through the lens of a poet and to write poetry as a medium of self-expression. The students were fully engaged as he read from his own collection of poetry as well as Shakespeare, Robert Frost and R.W. Emerson.  

Ward had the students do a very simple exercise with truly meaningful results. “Look at your clenched fist” and find a way to describe what you see without stating the obvious. MEF Trustee Lisa Moro joined the class to see first hand the impact of this grant.  "It was fun to hear the students describe their fist as a “cinnamon roll,” among other creative things. I think the students were surprised to find that words really can carve out meaning in new and different ways depending on how creatively they are being used. I think we all learned a little something new to tuck away in our back pockets when we are writing prose."  In the Media Center, poet Robert Carnevale and Roberto Carlos Garcia read from their collections and fielded questions from students. Garcia urged students who wanted to pursue poetry to do so, “fearlessly.” Both poets strongly advocated pushing the limits and moving forward with poetry even when writing about social issues that may be controversial or difficult to express – “Express it!”

The Grand Finale was a treat –  as all poets took turns reciting or reading their poetry

“…as if in that lavender moment…”

“The thatchy back of her head is a patch of knots. …”

“She feels like a pinecone seed that splits a boulder…”

                        --Cat Doty, various works


“…from my loveseat in suburbia…”

“…I wear floppy feet…”

“The truth is empty wine bottles.”

“On my knees I pretend to be a tsunami…”

                        --Roberto Carlos Garcia, various works


“End of summer. I’m holding on like a tan.”

                        --Yesenia Montilla, various works