“Rip” roaring along…more readings/book signings scheduled

Here’s an updated schedule of “Rip” readings and book-signings, all of them at public libraries in these towns:
This Saturday, Oct. 20, 3pm, Briarcliff Manor NY; Nov. 17, 1 p.m., Holland Township, NJ; Jan. 12, 2 pm, Irvington NY; Jan. 19, 1 pm, Peekskill, NY; Feb. 23, 1 pm, Beacon, NY; April 4, 5 pm, Port Jervis NY; April 22, 6 pm, Somers NY.

I’ll read excerpts from my satirical modern-day “retelling” of “Rip Van Winkle,” talk a little about my longtime affection for the works of Washington Irving, answer questions, and sign copies for people who buy the book, which will be available for purchase after the reading.

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“Rip” on tour!

*Two more readings and book-signings have been scheduled for “Rip,” my modern-day satirical “retelling” of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”

Admission to all events is free. Copies of “Rip” will be available for purchase.

I’ll be appearing Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Irvington Public Library located at 12 South Astor St., Irvington, N.Y., which is located along the Hudson River in Westchester County, N.Y., just south of Tarrytown, and is — of course — named after Washington Irving.

A week later, on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m., I’ll be reading and signing books at the Field Library, 4 Nelson Ave., Peekskill, N.Y.

As previously reported, I’ll be appearing:

*Friday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m., at the Orangeburg Library, 20 Greenbush Road, Orangeburg, N.Y.

*Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m., at the Briarcliff Manor Public Library, One Library Road, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

*Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m., at the Port Jervis Free Library, 138 Pike St., Port Jervis, N.Y.

*Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m., at the Somers Library, 80 Primrose St., Somers, N.Y.

More readings will be announced soon, including an appearance later this year at the Holland-Alexandria Library in Hunterdon County, N.J., and at the public library in Highland Park, N.J. We’re still discussing dates and times. I’ll be hoping to see some old friends at the Hunterdon County event. I lived in Alexandria until a few years ago and was editor of the local weekly paper.

A (poetry) festive(al) event

Philip Schultz will be the featured poet at this year's Delaware Valley Poetry Festival

New Jersey’s got a great poetry tradition, both in terms of individuals and institutions.
If you’re talking great poets, let’s talk New Jersey poets Walt Whitman and Williams Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, for starters, and let’s add such current luminaries as Robert Pinsky (born, raised and educated in N.J.), Paul Muldoon and C.K. Williams and Yusef Komunyakaa (all three teach at Princeton), National Book Award winner Gerald Stern of Lambertville, and other outstanding Jersey-based poets including B.J. Ward, Maria Gillan and the great Joe Weil (sprung fully formed from the loins of Elizabeth, N.J.)

If you’re talking about poetry, how about the spectacular Geraldine R. Dodge Festival — and a much smaller event called the Delaware Valley Festival, held yearly in two small towns, Frenchtown and Stockton, along the Delaware River.

I started the festival back in 1998 when then-U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky agreed to be the featured poet, joined by New Jersey poets (including Weil and my friend, the poet Charles H. Johnson) associated with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The festival’s debut was a huge success — and we were off and running, as subsequent festival featured the likes of Louise Gluck (who became our nation’s poet laureate herself a few years later), Pulitzer winner Muldoon, Stern, Diane Wakoski, Gillan, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dobyns, Pinsky again (for the 10th anniversary) and, last year, former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer winner the great Rita Dove.

As my life has taken a new direction I’ve decided to end my involvement with the Delaware Valley Poetry Festival, handing over the reins to the capable hands of Frenchtown-based poet Skye van Saun, who will continue to work on with my talented friends and colleagues Keith Strunk and Laura Swanson of River Union Stage.

One of my last acts as coordinator of the event was to recruit this year’s featured poet, Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Schultz.

On the bill with Schultz are New Jersey poets Cat Doty and Linda Radice. Admission is free but donations are welcome. Seating is limited and first-come, first-served. For more information, call 908-996-3685 or visit riverunionstage.org.

Why am I writing about this now? Because the 13th annual Delaware Valley Poetry Festival will take place Friday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m., at Prallsville Mills in Stockon, N.J. If you’re anywhere near New Jersey, it’s practically a can’t-miss event if you’re a lover of poetry and literature.

And, yes, I know I misspelled “festival” as “festive(al)” in the title of this post. That’s what’s known as poetic license!

Poetry takes center stage in N.J.

The 12th annual Delaware Valley Poetry Festival’s this weekend — Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m., at the historic Prallsville Mills along the Delaware River in Stockton, N.J.

Rita Dove
Rita Dove

The main attraction, of course, will be chance to hear and meet Rita Dove, two-time U.S. poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer prize for poetry. In addition to reading from her work, Rita will sign books at two locations: Book Garden on Bridge Street in Frenchtown, N.J., at 3:30 p.m, and directly after the reading, right in the recently restored  sawmill where the reading will take place, sponsored by the Borders bookstore in nearby Flemington.

But here’s a special added attraction:  Laura Swanson and Keith Strunk, my ultra-talented friends and colleagues who are the principals of Frenchtown-based River Union Stage, will be staging a presentation based on a segment of Rita Dove’s latest book, “Sonata Mulattica,” which is based on the extraordinary life of George Bridgetower, a violin virtuoso to whom Beethoven initially dedicated the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

River Union Stage has partnered with me to stage the Delaware Valley Poetry Festival since 2006,  and in past years has performed a shor, theatrical treatment of a selected work by the featured poet as a curtain-warmer.  For Diane Wakoski’s Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons, RUS created a film treatment of the poem with appropriate visuals and music.  For the 10th anniversary of the festival, featuring Robert Pinsky, RUS had a child actor, a 40-something actor and Robert himself in performance of To Television, representing Pinsky at different stages of his life, illuminated by the glow of a “television” throughout.

This year RUS, with considerable imput from Ms. Dove herself, will offer a theatrical interpretation of The Performer, a section from “Sonata Mulattica.” Starring will be Ryan Quinn, who performed in a previous RUS production of It’s A Wonderful Life.  He received his MFA from Yale School of Drama, and has since performed in numerous regional houses and off-Broadway with many Shakespeare credits under his belt.

Ryan Quinn
Ryan Quinn

It will be an extraordinary evening of poetry and theater this Saturday at Prallsville as the extraordinary Rita Dove adds her name to an impressive roster of poets who’ve come to our remote cultural outpost in western New Jersey: In addition to Pinsky and Wakoski, add the names of nationally acclaimed poets Louise Gluck, Paul Muldoon, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dobyns and Gerald Stern (of nearby Lambertville, N.J.) and other outstanding New Jersey-based poets including Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Charles H. Johnson, BJ Ward and the amazing Joe Weil.

Try to make it to Stockton, N.J., this Saturday night. And try to get there early. Since admission is free (N.B.: Donations are welcome to help offset production costs for the poetry reading series at a time when government funding for the arts has been trimmed or eliminated), seating is first-come and first-served. Lines of people were waiting to get in when Robert Pinsky read for the festival’s 10th anniversary. I expect, and hope, there will bne similarly long lines of poetry fans arriving early to get a good seat for a great night of theater and poetry.




A dream of foxes

When I drive home at night from work to my home in sort-of-rural western New Jersey,  I am reminded constantly that the area  — with its abundant open space, farm fields, deep woods, many streams and ponds, and its proximity to the Delaware River – absolutely teems with wildlife. I’ve seen black bears, weasels, coyotes, barn owls, pheasants, wild turkeys, ospreys, muskrats, beavers and the more typical suburban/exurban menagerie including deer (which are everywhere and which I’ve hit with my car three times in fifteen years), raccoons, skunks, rabbits, field mice, and turkey buzzards and hawks.

Sometimes it seems like I’m actually living on a movie set where they’re doing a remake of “Bambi.”

In recent years I’ve noticed a proliferation of foxes – every night it seems I see at least one fox scampering into the woods or running across the road, its gorgeous reddish brown coat shining in my headlights.

I assume the number of foxes fluctuates — the same thing happens with raccoons and skunks – as their number climbs to a peak level of sustainability and then plummets as something like rabies decimates the population. The foxes die off and then, for example, rabbits make a comeback. It’s like that song in “The Lion King.” It’s the circle of life.

Last night, that circle seemed more like a bright ring of light – it was one of those little moments with great significance, an encounter that seems so beautiful and meaningful in its simplicity and its providence.

It was nearly midnight. An adult fox trotted across the country road, illuminated by my harsh headlights and by the soft light of the waxing moon, and trailing behind the fox were three young foxes, each one about half the size of the adult.

As I watched them trot into the roadside brush, I wondered if the adult was the father fox, perhaps teaching his sons how to hunt, or whether it was the mother fox, heading back home to the den with her three little kits.

And then I wondered whether these foxes might be preying or might be prey, and then I silently began to pray that at least for this night they were neither, that they were simply a dream of foxes, a vision of foxes, a beauty of foxes, a heaven of foxes, an apparition on a night when I needed just such a miracle, such an omen, such a gift.