South Jersey poet Emari DiGiorgio's topics range from the political to the personal. She writes of courage, injustice and of being a woman in the world around her. She also has penned a poem about Bruce Lee. And one about Sarah Palin.

DiGiorgio, who is an associate professor of writing at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township, a New Jersey Poet-in-the-School and a featured poet at the 2012 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, will be the featured local poet on Sept. 25 during the monthly installment of the "World Above: Free Poetry Night," hosted by the South Jersey Poets Collective and taking place 7 p.m. at Dante Hall Theater in Atlantic City.

A popular and frequent participant in these open mic sessions for the past year, DiGiorgio was tapped as the "South Jersey" poet for the night, to be followed by visiting guest poet Emma Bolden, said Aubrey Gerhardt, who hosts the monthly series and is a member of the South Jersey Poets Collective.

Bolden has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and was the recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship for the 2008 Sewanee Writers' Conference and a finalist for a Ruth Lily Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation/Poetry magazine. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University.

"We have two really amazing female poets lined up for this month that should bring out an interesting mix of people," Gerhardt said. "When we found out that Bolden was passing through South Jersey, we asked if she would be available to us and she graciously said yes."

"World Above: Free Poetry Nights" is a free, open to the public event featuring an open mic format followed by longer readings from a South Jersey poet and a guest poet. Everyone is encouraged to attend to read their poetry.

Formed just more than a year ago, South Jersey Poets Collective is an all-inclusive group with a primary focus: to give a voice to those in the community who want to express themselves. Anyone interested in joining need only show up, Gerhardt said.

"I'm hoping we get more of the local community," she said. "I know there are people out there who love poetry, and this is an excellent opportunity for anyone who wants to come out and express themselves. We want to hear your voice."

For the stand-up session, poets have three minutes on the mic and can sign up to read at the event or in advance on the group's Facebook page. Poems are not screened in advance, so those who wish to read are asked to be respectful of those around them. No threatening, racist, homophobic or hateful messages of any sort will be tolerated, and the group's website advises that this series is recommended for adults due to the potentially mature nature of the poems read.

Already, the group boasts the involvement of more than 40 poets, both established and up and coming, Gerhardt said.

The group also has the support of professors from Stockton and Atlantic Cape Community College, as well as established poets who are Atlantic City natives. The result is a cross-section of poets of all ages and from all backgrounds, Gerhardt said. And now that the school year has begun, Gerhardt said, she hopes more high school and college students will be able to attend and get involved. For her part, DiGiorgio has arranged for a shuttle to take a group of students from the Stockton campus in Pomona to Dante Hall in Atlantic City to attend this month's session.

About 50 people attended last month's poetry readings, with about 22 participating in the open mic session, Gerhardt said. She hopes that as interest grows in the community about the monthly event, so will the number of people who show up and participate.

"SJ Poets is allowing a typically reclusive group of artists a chance to build community," Gerhardt said. "Local poets who thought themselves alone in South Jersey now have a forum in which to share their talent, learn from their peers, and inspire the community."

The group's schedule is set through December and is already lining up guest poets for 2014, such as Cynthia Arrieu-King and Josh Mehigan, Gerhardt said.

The participating poets do have the option of signing a release to have a recording of their reading posted on YouTube, so the public can experience some really great performances, Gerhardt said.

The monthly poetry readings are sponsored in part by Stir It Up Catering, which provides coffee and sweet treats for the evening, all free of charge, said Gerhardt.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:


If you go

What: World Above: Free Poetry Nights.

Where: Dante Hall, 14 N. Mississippi Ave., Atlantic City.


Free parking available in church lot behind Dante Hall, or for a fee in lot across from theater.

Who: Open to the public.

Cost: Free.

When: 7 p.m., once a month, on Wednesdays.

Upcoming schedule: Sept. 25 Emari DiGiorgi and Emma Bolden;Oct. 23: Cole Eubanks and Bruce Niedt; Nov. 20: Peter Murphy and Lili Mendozam; Dec. 18: MaryLisa DeDomenicis and James Richardson.

Information: see

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