We hope that your walk through the park has inspired your creativity. Send Poem Quest a poem of your own! You can write about your experience of the park, a spot in it that caught your attention, or a story about yourself and what brings you here. We would love to see it.

Upload your poem or type it into the editor.


Take a walk through Newark’s Riverfront Park searching for poems that tell the stories of the people who visit it! Listen to the poems by following the trail of photographs by photojournalist Ed Kashi that provide clues for discovering the poetry in and of Riverfront Park. 

Poetry has long been a means of personal storytelling; PoemQuest tells the story of Riverfront Park through the voices of local poets commissioned by Newest Americans to interview visitors and share their stories through poetry. The poets asked questions designed to understand how visitors are connected to the park and to New Jersey—Where did your family come from before settling in New Jersey? What brought you here? What brings you to this park? 

PoemQuest connects art to history through an interactive game that peoples the park with poetry. Once you play the game we encourage you to share your own poem about the journey that led you to Newark and your connection to Riverfront Park. Submit your poem

Riverfront Park

Welcome to PoemQuest. Join us in a tour of Riverfront Park through poems that tell the stories of the people who visit.

Tucked into the heart of the Ironbound, Newark’s Riverfront Park connects the city to the Passaic River, which has shaped its history and character for almost four centuries. Yet for decades, Newarkers did not have a waterfront they could call their own. For over a century, factories in Newark dumped effluents into the Passaic, filling it with vast quantities of toxic waste. The river is now a Superfund site and the focus of one of the most expensive clean-up efforts in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Riverfront Park spans over four acres and opened in 2013 after years of lobbying for a green space by Ironbound residents and their advocates. Today, on its boardwalk and lawns, alongside sports fields and historic installations, the park hosts festivals and events that reflect the Ironbound’s rich immigrant culture and Newark’s ethnic diversity. The park is a testament to community efforts to transform once-contaminated land into a much-needed neighborhood resource: public green space.


Play Poem

Saving the World, One Scrimmage at a Time

paulA neves

Ntwademela, he who greets with fire in Sesotho, 
hails from post World Cup South Africa 
by way of grandfather and father’s West Virginia, 
attended Rutgers playing what America calls football, 
a scholarship to study econ and pre-med bio, 
then graduated to found a nearby tech startup— 
says, “what I’ve learned…I’ll always use it”— 
does not worry how long he’ll live in Canarsie, Brooklyn, 
before moving on, smiles while scoring goals on a Newark 
Riverfront summer afternoon, a pick up with a Spanish- 
speaking friend who says he’s gotta run 
when I start asking too many questions, who 
Ntwademela later confides is homeless, adds, 
“If you go to Market St., you still see lots of them.” 
On a polished turf pitch in the middle of a renaissance 
he who greets with the energy of the sun declares, 
“I’m not a politician. We are all people. I do what I can.” 

Play Poem

Kyrie 4’s ™   

Dmitri Reyes

“Together with Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang, Nike designer Ben Nethongkome built
a shoe that could harness the power of Kyrie’s lightning-fast footwork on the court, and speak to
his unique style off the court.” – nike.com 

Did you see him speeding by in all black and white? 
Full force before he hits that midcourt in and out cross 
and you catch his size 6 Q-Tip bright white Nike signs 
right before he hits the backstep to fadeaway jumper. 

He’s the man in these mid-tops that give him bounce 
from University Heights to the Ironbound. Every touch-up 
a Saturday morning cereal bowl spoon feeding of catalog-like 
information before dropping dimes to a teammate. 

“He’s getting past me because of his flexible traction…” 
he runs down the court and cuts like grass before 
taking his jumpshot. The next play he makes a layup 
with my large hand in his face and lets me know, 

“His responsive cushioning is giving him ups!” I go slightly 
left when his body goes slightly right and I catch the gleam 
of an orange sun in his glasses when he yells, “Curry!” 
burying another jumper from the lean. “You see the split 

down his sole? That’s how I can shake you,” he says. This kid 
has dreams like all the others that spit wishes onto this court 
he spits a snow globe of hustle in a glob of phlegm. Even 
screaming a Warrior’s name I see him closer to the man 

that represents his shoe, “Did you know Kyrie Irving is from
New Jersey?… West Orange… but he went to school in Elizabeth…”
And he tells me basketball is his life when I’m taking a water break
in this summer heat. That he’s at this playground whenever his mother

can bring him on Saturday or when his sister has a softball game. 
His park is like my park where I had a similar dream. Where I based 
skill off of the double handed dunk stitched to the side of my shoe, 
hanging low in the post, backing down twice before taking a powerstep 

to the rim. I didn’t mind if I played half court or full court, as long as 
I was allowed to stay in this box where time was only understood in the
score of 21 and win-by-two. Where throwing orange suns until dusk 
helped us burn brighter than the idols we worshipped on our sneakers. 



Play Poem


Dania Rohani

Dilapidated heart
Mouth descends
In Latin, she means beautiful
Cow-like coat
Unable to contain her happiness,
She searches for hands
Warmth and treats 
You look away, 
From the Earth that Bella plays in 
From the soccer field that held your dreams 
From a being that stares back
Smiles of ineffable reflection
A reminder of a lover,
Your face, a reminder of who is no longer here
Fifteen and blossoming of a future,
Promised a rose garden,
Would you have stayed in school?
Your departure, a mystery
A few weeks and you’ll be homeschooled
What will your future say in adages,
Neff hat, purposeful on a cold day
Acne on your cheeks
Hallmark of youth,
You say goodbye,
I’m reminded of absence once more


Play Poem


paulA neves

Dawn, your fingers bright with tats of roses and bling,
don’t throw a fit because your Portuguese Orion
strolls the park on break a couple times a week.
He’s not hunting for some sweet young thing,
he says, just likes watching the people, pick up ball,
gets the feels, the peace he doesn’t from working
in a body shop, remembering the blasted beasts—
stacks of trailers when this “beautiful, clean park…
was just a dump…now “it’s a whole new city”—
shinier than Troy (the smartass poet interjects)—“Huh?
“I’m from the Ironbound,” says Orion, whose real
name he asks to keep off book, but whose first initial
rhymes with “are,” as in we are walking in the sun
regardless, listening to our muses on our twists and turns…


Play Poem


Dmitri Reyes

I couldn’t tell what it was
at first

my sister and I thought

like the Jersey Devil
still living in forest fires

this sighting can outlast
dumps of chemical waste

evolving a filtration system
within lungs not absorbing lead

it could’ve been a burlap bag
that held something like rice

there is a Seabra’s in the Ironbound
and another in Harrison

that could kiss this river littered
with bags and bag-like items

plump and floating
it could’ve been a rock she said

but I remember reading
about the five families of New York

and our five wards and these bridges
have seen rocks around ankles that sink

to the bottom
by the boardwalk

When it revealed itself as a car tire
not bald nor used

I wondered how it got there
in the water brand new but travelled

I went scouring the park
that morning for a culture

to dissect a down neck history
to spin a new legend

around a thing that was only a tire
it was still in the water

out of place and something to ponder
this unused object without myth nor story

just floating in the water


Play Poem


Dania Rohani

With hesitation, we approach 
Make judgments of safety, 
Without hearing you, 
Judgments on the threads that hang on you, 
From an infamous hoodie 
Confiding your reality 
Sincerity acknowledged with stares 
With privileged laughter 
A self-possessed panhandler, 
Need in our eyes, 
That we could never pay forward 
And when the last moment arrives, 
Without George Washingtons or Lincolns, 
Our pockets turned inside out 
Your eyes drift down, 
You walk away into the path 
The trees fall by your side, 
Disappointment reconstructed 
Black and grey, your silhouette among the pigeons, 
Monet’s watercolors, 



Play Poem

Written on Water

paulA neves

I leave myself
as witness for us,

for this strange river’s mornings,
for quartos and rooms,

luxury apartments,
skyscrapers, cornflowers,

sex, soccer, sycamores’
honeycombed hours.

Forget winter,
we are still sailing, amor,

from Bahia, San Salvador, Minho,
Donegal, Bavaria, Southern soils

on ironbound bridges,
tracks in the marshes.

Leave these fados
as new maps for others:

curious tourists,
transplants and dabblers.

Cities will rise
like great waters

but we will unfurl them
and write down our names.

Play Poem


Dania Rohani

In the quarry, the shovel exhumes
As metal meets the contact of rocks
Clunks and echoes
A highlighter in the rain
Hands never seeing light of day,
The river in your hands,
Murky, oxidized, mud
Surface area of dirt,
No sight of skin
To correct a mistake,
Shovels and tanks
Sewers and pipelines
Calibrated, stable
For children to play
To watch their grandchildren running
Across a field

Play Poem

And You Ask Me, Why Here?

Dmitri Reyes

Say you old 
and you remember Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 
Mommy’s Kitchen Restaurant. 
11 years there to your 60 years of Newark. 

Say you old 
on Sunday you’re at Seaside Heights 
smoking a cigar and watching the waves come in. 
Thursday you’re at the Riverfront Park 
with an iced coffee watching people play soccer. 

Say you old 
and you say you live off of westside oranges 
but you teach the youth of the eastside to pipe down, 
To take their deep apartment building breaths 
and watch their brain waves roll in and out. 

And you ask me, why here?

A park is opportunity, 
those little kids in lines like ants 
come from that preschool across the way 
and they play at this little park 
until the sun is too high 
and though their breaths are small they 
breathe in those people around them 
and a world becomes larger. 

Say you old.
A park is everything for those who have nothing.

Say you old, 
and you notice the young couple holding hands 
and the Portuguese seniors picking flowers beside 
the court of old heads playing basketball with young 
high schoolers on the other half court 
who came with their friends splashing water 
at each other from the drinking fountain. 

Say you old, 
But you can still hear the Samba class too. 
Not far off in that field you could watch the instructor 
cut a hot wind with his hips and a piece of shirt and barefoot 
watching him lead 15 people of sweats that follow his footwork. 

Say you old 
on the regular you see these people 
all similar – like on the daily that 
young woman living in the shelter 
always occupying that certain bench 
where the trail splits. She always lies across it 
waiting for those airplanes to fly over 
the part of the park with no trees and one day 
one day she will leave or the sky will crack open 
the way people who don’t use the park do 
because this park is nothing without its people. 

Say you old, 
Sixty. Seventy. Eighty. 
And you don’t use the park 
because you have a boardwalk. 
So you become its landscape 
of Jersey Shore news, 
walking, jogging, riding bicycles 
with those big Texas longhorn handlebars. 
Well, we could use a camera here too 
so people can share in the vitality 
of what it is to sit on a bench and 
read the paper to the sounds of unity: 
our pick- up games and little leaguers. 

One can call me old 
but then you would be, too. 
Just take yourself back 
To a time where you were happy 
to just run and play tag, 
to jump and play hopscotch, 
to skim the best rock on the water 
or hold the longest wheelie down the block. 

Say you old 
and you can’t walk fast no more, 
you can’t take dance no more, 
so you have to learn to smile more, 
so you do— 

And now you sit here on this bench 
Right here 
And every answer you ever needed 
Is somewhere in this park.