How To Tell If You Are At Ozzfest Or Dodge Poetry Fest
(Or, how I learned to love Rita Dove as much as I love the man who bit the head off a dove)
With the number of festivals that besiege the typical fun-seeker during any given Summer, it's important to know where you are. Below we describe two very different festivals we attended this summer: Ozzy Osbourne's annual heavy metal caravan known as Ozzfest and the less well-known but also rockin' Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. We have also included a handy table to help you understand the differences between these two events. Please remember, at Ape Culture, we support both poetry and Ozzy Osbourne, as well as Ozzy Osbourne's particular brand of poetry.
What is Ozzfest?
The first Ozzfest tour garnered a lot of press due to the inclusion of Marilyn Manson on the bill and the controversy he brings with him. Several cities requested that Manson not play, but Ozzy stood by his man/woman/hermaphrodite and kept Manson on the tour. The press and the high-octane bill which featured Type O Negative and Pantera made the tour one of the year's biggest successes.
Since then Sharon has kept Ozzy on the road every summer and each Ozzfest has landed among the summer's top grossing tours. Many bands have made it big thanks to side stage or early afternoon main stage slots on Ozzfest including Limp Bizkit, Drowning Pool, and Disturbed.
In addition to the music which takes places on up to 3 different stages, there are carnival games, piercing and tattooing booths, information booths where you can pick up free condoms or join the marines, and lots of food and beer options. There is also an autograph tent where some of the musicians meet fans and sign their stuff.
This year, I saw Ozzfest in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Highlights of the day for me were seeing Kelly Osbourne duet with Andrew
W. K. on "She is Beautiful" and seeing System of a Down for
the first time. P. O. D. proved mildly disappointing as they seemed to
have some technical difficulties that caused poor sound quality. I thought
Drowning Pool played a terrific set and were really on the verge of making
it big--I was saddened to hear that their singer died on the tour less
than a month after I saw them. Ozzy played a strong set and he was in
good voice. His heartfelt rendition of "Mama, I'm Coming Home"
really moved the crowd of tough metalheads, as he dedicated the song to
Sharon who was at home undergoing chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it rained
for the last 3 hours of Ozzfest, so that made for mudpit moshing and a
big mess. We missed Rob Zombie as we had sought the only shelter available
to those of us peasants on the lawn--the women's bathroom. Next year I'll
be back but I'll make sure to get a reserved seat.
What is the Dodge Poetry Fest?
And they give live shows called “readings”. Sometimes as many as 40 people show up. I know this because I have seen such things and have come back to tell you about it.
You won’t see any underwear flinging around (well, maybe at The Nuyorican) unless you’re talking about the symbolic underwear flinging in the erotic poems of Ovid. You will see poetry groupies but more often they will be bespectacled and disheveled. Spandex and thongs....yeah....you won't be seeing that.
A typical reading goes like this: a host introduces a poet with some stale accolades often written by a grad student. Then the poet comes on stage to polite or even enthusiastic applause, does a little introduction and reads about a half-hour of poems and after really deft passages, people in the audience can be heard to make short grunts (the poet-audience's equivalent to “amen” or “right on” or “you said what I feel in my soul when I’m in that particular situation you just described, man”). The session ends with a short Q&A and then the poet moves to the back of the venue to sell and sign books. They typically sells about ten copies. This is because the other poets who attend readings like this are cheap. Usually because they are dirt poor...or trust-funded but still inexplicably cheap.
The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, otherwise know as Dodge Fest, is the largest Poetry Festival in North America, takes place every other year in Waterloo, New Jersey, and is often called the Woodstock of Poetry (mostly by it's organizers).
The festival takes place at The Village of Waterloo, a slightly rundown restored 19th century village complete with a Blacksmith Shop, Apothecary, Grist Mill, Saw Mill, Gunsmith, and Pottery Barn. As restored historical villages in New England go, stick with Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, or Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
At Dodgefest, they are adamant that this is not a writers conference or a book fair. But mostly, writers go and buy books. The book tent is one of the great perks of the whole shindig. Everyone who reads there sells poetry there, their translations, their textbooks, their essays.
More fun can be had at the big tent readings, little tent readings, open readings, and multiple “conversations” on poets and the craft of poetry. The Big Shew always take place in the Village's Concert Tent, a smorgasbord of modern living poets reading their wares. Approximately 2,000 people can attend these A poetry crowd by definition is a wonder in itself -- there's lots of love in the room. But the poetry grunt en mass can be kind of off-putting.
Most of the heated "conversations" usually take place in the tiny Church and this is my favorite part of Dodge Fest. Poets and readers crammed from wall to wall, arguing about poetry and the life of poets. Philip Levine led a good discussion in 1996 and the W.S. Merwin chat in 1998 was memorable for the predictable pop culture bashing. To Merwin's credit, he reality-checked the whining. But the chats are usually interesting as the audience volleys the proverbial mental beach ball around.
The open reading usually takes place in the dark and dreary Gristmill. Stay away from the dark and dreary Gristmill. It’s headache-making, with every self-absorbed diary transcriber reading from long-winded opuses on Russian Faberge eggs. It’s painful even for those of us who delight and occasional peddle in our own bad poetry.
For a good book on Dodge Fest and the poets who appear there, pick up the poet groupie Bill Moyers’ book, Fooling with Words. He’s like the Pamela des Barres of poets. And no less annoying. His book interviews poets from the 1998 Dodge Fest including former US Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz, Coleman Barks, Mark Doty, Deborah Garrison (of the popular book A Working Girl Can’t Win), zen poet Jane Hirshfield, and former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy.
"Now you live inside a bottle
of a Down
Andrew W. K.
"So let's get a party going (let's get a party
Who's Who at Dodgefest 2002
“marveled to hear so clear
Read his poem: The Snakes of September
One of my favorite Rita Dove poems is "Geometry" from The Yellow House on the Corner. I have a soft spot for poems about science…especially this kind of spiritual science:
"I prove a theorem and the house expands”
“above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
Yes, poets walk among us! Unlike other artists, poets mingle. This may be because they get acutely lonely in their garrets. Or more likely, most people don’t recognize even the most famous of celebrity poets on the street. It’s relatively safe. These are some of the poets who were spotted cruising Dodge Fest.
Read some Edward Hirsch online: from The Hades Sonnets
“maybe I should have wanted less.
Ozzfest has already featured so many great metal bands that I have trouble coming up with bands I'd like to see on the bill. Here's a few:
KISS - I know, I know, they already had 3 or 4 farewell tours, but how about one more go-round? Kids who like Mudvayne and Insane Clown Posse should be exposed to the metal makeup originators. And Ozzy would appreciate some company when he goes for the senior citizen discount dinner at Old Country Buffet. Here is some of the poetry of KISS from "Heaven's on Fire":
"Feel my heat, takin' you higher
Poison - Sharon tries to book acts that represent the full spectrum of metal but she has so far neglected the hair band era. Maybe she would like to forget the 80s, since that was the decade in which Ozzy bleached his hair, wore sequined gowns, and tried to strangle her.
The Donnas - These broads rock in the tradition of Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I didn't see any women on stage at Ozzfest 2002, besides Kelly Osbourne.
Steel Dragon - This band doesn't really exist, but it does feature Ozzy's and Black Label Society's guitarist, Zakk Wylde. Steel Dragon is the band from the movie Rock Star and I really dig their songs on the soundtrack. It would be fun to see them performed live (fronted by a shirtless Mark Wahlberg of course).
Someday I hope to see my favorite poets at Dodge Fest, including:
Stephen Dobyns - a dry academic reader but his narrative style and humor won me over in poems like "Spiritual Chickens" from his book Cemetery Nights.
Sometimes Dobyns pulls a tragic overhaul in his poems, as in another favorite about bull fighting, “Querencia”. You can read these two poems in: Velocities: New and Selected Poems 1966-1992 and his how-to book Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry.
I also dig the science poems in Albert
Goldbarth's book Heaven
and Earth: A Cosmology and the long-poem ghost/relationship poem
"Two Domains" from his book Beyond (“There is
no such thing as a ghost without a problem”).
This year I read Anne Carson's book-length mythology, Autobiography of Red. The long series of poems had me completely spellbound. Loved it!
For a daily poetry primer, check out the web site Poetry
Read about the Dodge Fest through the eyes of Bill Moyers.
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