'Girl Talk': Women Poets Celebrate Women’s History Month at West Caldwell Public Library
Fourth annual reading of poems about women’s lives and interests happening Saturday afternoon.
“Winter consumes what I love and/leaves behind the wreckage of absence…”
– Diane Lockward
There will be poems about having a newborn, family life and empty nests. About marriage, maybe divorce, widowhood. Cooking and clothes, too. “Last year, there was a killer poem by a woman with a son fighting in the Middle East,” said West Caldwell resident Diane Lockward.
Lockward, who has recently published her third volume of poems, is the force behind “Girl Talk: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of Women’s History Month.” The annual event – this is its fourth year – has been attracting upwards of 100 participants to the West Caldwell Public Library Community Room each March. It’s free, open to the public and takes place between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. this Saturday, March 26.
The first time out, Lockward got a little heat from one of the poets about the name, “Girl Talk.”
“I consider myself a feminist, but I like to think there is a little of the girl in me and always will be,” Lockward said. “I stuck with the name, and the writer who objected is now a strong supporter and one of the reading poets each year.”
A total of 30 women poets from throughout New Jersey and surrounding states will read a single poem each in alphabetical order by poet’s last name, the last half of the alphabet reading first.
Erika Dreifus of New York City will be reading the “Autumn of H1N1.”
"I was a pure prose writer for a long time," Dreifus said in an email. “My Ph.D. dissertation was nonfiction, and my MFA concentration was in fiction; my new book, Quiet Americans: Stories, is a short-story collection. I revisited poetry after I moved to NYC in 2007 and took up a full-time, nonteaching job. I took four classes online, two apiece with two excellent teachers, and something clicked.”
Other poets include the Caldwells’ Sandra Duguid and Montclair’s Jessica de Koninck.
Duguid is the past assistant director of the Academic Support Center at Caldwell College and has taught creative writing and literature at many area colleges. As with Lockward and other participating poets, Duguid has read at the prestigious Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. She is also a past poetry fellow of the New Jersey Council on the Arts.
Jessica de Koninck’s work has appeared in the Paterson Literary Reviewand Lips, two well known poetry journals. Her 2006 collection, Repairs, is published by Finishing Line Press. She is a past Montclair councilman and currently is the in house counsel for the South Orange-Maplewood School System.
“’Girl Talk’ is a wonderful afternoon of poetry, friendship and warmth,” de Koninck said by email. “It's relaxed and all the readers are very interested in hearing each other's work. I don't know of any other event featuring the voices of so many women. Not yet sure what I will read – I will try to pick one of my own favorites and something not too many people have heard before.”
As for Lockward, she will be reading “Hunger in the Garden” (an excerpt appears above) from her latest collection, Temptation by Water. Her work has also appeared in two editions of Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times.
Patch spoke to Lockward this week about the upcoming reading.
Q. Diane, how did you get the idea for “Girl Talk”?
A. When the library opened the new community room about eight years ago, they invited organizations in town to get in touch with ideas for the space. I had been thinking about a festival to celebrate literary journals, the magazines that publish our poems. I pitched that idea, and we’ve been attracting hundreds of people to that event each May. Then I was invited to read as one of four poets at a Seton Hall University round robin called “Jersey Girls.” It wasn’t very well attended, but I was determined to find a place and an audience for the idea of women reading their poems about women’s lives.
(Full disclosure: Lockward and I are past teaching colleagues at Millburn High School. Lockward brings her formidable professional experience to organizing and publicizing “Girl Talk.” She does everything from creating a webpage with capsule bios of each reader to putting together a committee of bakers who supply the high tea reception after the reading.)
Q. What is the biggest challenge of putting on “Girl Talk?
A. Right now, the biggest challenge is that every poet wants to come back. Many of this year’s poets are returning readers, but I need to have some new readers each year, too.
Q. One of the former readers is our former student, Erika Dreifus who grew up in Millburn and now lives in New York City. What can you tell us about her work?
A. The poem she sent me is a knockout – profound, moving, and beautifully written. I can't wait to hear her read it.
Q. Diane, what would you like to say about the reception?
A. Audience members and readers enjoy the reception, too. Poets make connections for other readings, friendships are made and old acquaintances become reacquainted.
Visit Lockward's website for a complete list of the participating poets and information about their works.