In-person poetry gatherings are back at the Medford Arts Center and will continue monthly until August.
The idea was started four years ago by Naomi and Vince Dispenza, after the latter won a MACs poetry contest and the couple joined the center. They are now poetry co-chairs there.
“We said, wouldn’t it be fun to have people sit around and share poetry and maybe have a monthly gathering?” recalled Naomi.
The Medford residents did not anticipate the idea would make an impact at the center, but when the gatherings officially began in 2018, it enthralled the community by combining works of poetry, historical speeches, lyrics and songs for residents, with an option for residents to read their poetry.
“It’s become a rather very nice, comfortable, intimate setting, but very welcoming,” Naomi said. “It’s kind of a safe haven if you’re interested in poetry and words and literature; it’s a very easy environment.”
The poetry gatherings faced a challenge during the pandemic: the February 2020 event was the last one held in person for two years. As a result, the Dispenzas knew they had to find a way to continue the tradition. With their passion for sharing poetry with writers in Medford, the couple started “Poetry on the Road,” 40 recorded videos shared on the MAC YouTube Page.
“We decided to drive around and explore different parks of New Jersey and have a theme with each video,” Naomi recalled. “We started to share just poetry and different areas of New Jersey.”
During “Poetry on The Road” videos, the couple recited poems based on the locations of their visits, ranging from “The Art of Japan” to “The Jersey Devil.”
Now the Disepnzas are excited to welcome back in-person gatherings; the first one took place on April 22 and had a spring theme that also acknowledged Earth Day. That gathering celebrated authors that included Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, and there was a special reading of the 19th-century poem “Casey At The Bat.”