Navigating the New Jersey Poetry Scene

Carriage House
Carriage House

The Carriage House, located in Fanwood, New Jersey, hosts readings on the third Tuesday of every month.

If you’re looking for local bands, go where the music is. If you’re looking for art, check out some galleries. If you want to dance, find some clubs. But if you’re looking for poetry … where do you go? Vox Poetica is a great start, and you might even run into an open-mic in the middle of a beer, but if you’re truly seeking to become involved with poetry in N.J., it isn’t easy to find. Well, that’s a lie – but it takes some creative investigating.

There are a lot of organizations hosting unkempt and undernourished websites regarding N.J. poetry. In sifting through these, a few gold nuggets rose to the top, and they all provide exceptional information to kickstart any poetic adventuring in the Garden State.

At the top of the list, for being the most comprehensive (and blatantly obvious) source of information is the Poets.org New Jersey page. This one goes above and beyond all expectations, highlighting poetic history, famous poets, poetry friendly bookstores, poems about New Jersey, literary journals and presses, organizations, and events – truly a one-stop-shop for all (perhaps ‘most’ is more accurate) of your poetry needs. It’s also worth noting that Poets.org is maintained by the American Academy of Poets, based out of New York City, and is host to the annual (and just passed) Poets Forum.

Next, out of Passaic County Community College, is The Poetry Center. Established in 1980 by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, the center has promoted publications, events, and workshops consistently for three decades. Of note is their  “New Jersey Poetry Resource Book,” which, at $5.00 plus shipping, is invaluable. Also available is the N.J. Poetry Calendar, giving each month a printable PDF, highlighting local events. You can check out November’s here.

The N.J. Poets and Poetry blog might seem like a simple blogspot, but tucked away inside this site is a huge range of information not really listed anywhere else. From articles about self-publishing, to finding local literary magazines, to reading up on N.J. poetry news, this website does a good job covering the down and dirty side of which Poets.org only provides an aerial view. The best is the list of N.J. poets, which links out to both the various writers actively involved in local poetry and those who’ve seen better days (i.e. Walt Whitman).

Those close to Fanwood, New Jersey (and those willing to travel) can reel about in delight over The Carriage House Poetry Series. Holding free and public readings on the third Tuesday of every month, Carriage House has hosted notable readers like Gerald Stern, Stephen Dunn, Alicia Ostriker, Patricia Smith, Taylor Mali, and The Poetry Center’s Maria Gillan. Their calendar of events for the year is listed on the homepage, and there next event, on Nov. 15th, will feature Diane Lockward, founder of the Lockward Poetry Festival.

Finally, for the bold and brave few who desire unfettered verse, there is The Idiom. In association with Piscataway House Publications and Walking English, The Idiom seems to consider itself as the last bastion of free expression, giving way to poetry that is more relatable than the disjointed imagery sometimes associated with the art. The magazine formed in 2005 and was banned from the Rutger’s Zine Fest in 2006, according to their wikipedia page. The submission guidelines outline reasons to keep submitting more than what the magazine actually seeks, making the process all the more nerve-wracking. Definitely a great literary magazine for unpublished poets.

If, after reading all of this and discovering the greater depths of New Jersey poetry, you feel we’ve missed something, please leave a comment below or send a message to Info@LamplighterNJ.com, and we’ll make sure it gets recognition!

About the Author

Patrick BoylePatrick Boyle is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Lamplighter. He is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars and takes considerable care when drafting e-mails. Follow him on Twitter: @PatBoyleView all posts by Patrick Boyle →

  1. Big SeanBig Sean10-27-2011

    Sick Article.

  2. David MessineoDavid Messineo02-05-2012

    Yes, you missed something – the 25 years in which Sensations Magazine has provided feature reading and open mic opportunities for poets. It hosts the third longest continually operating poetry reading series in New Jersey – The Creative Events Series, operating as a “nonsmoking” series since 1988. Though the print magazine shuts down in 2012 after 25 years of service, the group’s reading series will continue annually. You can find information about upcoming events at http://www.sensationsmag.com, “Upcoming Events” button. Publisher David Messineo is doing book tours in 2012 and 2013, with open mics attached to many of his feature readings – and stopping in on his tours, in venues in NJ, NY, PA, and CT, among others – is an excellent way to get around and experience some of the regional gatherings. Mr. Messineo also sponsors PHANfest annually, which is a fundraiser for NJ food pantries, centered on financial donations in exchange for open mic time. PHANfest 3 is expected to take place on Sunday June 24, and details about that reading opportunity will be coming your way in May 2012.