Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for four days of poetry, community building, and creative transformation. The festival features readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, parties, activism—opportunities to speak out for justice, build connection and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can act as an agent for social change.
All venues are accessible. Please let us know what your needs are.
June Jordan-themed events are denoted with three asterisks (***).
Thursday, March 22
9 am - 4:30 pm REGISTRATION/CHECK-IN (Thurgood Marshall Center)
11:30 am-1 pm PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry
A group reading by poets published in the anthology Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry. Poets will read their own pieces from the anthology, along with other poems. Poets will also read pieces by anthology contributors who cannot attend. The reading will explore contemporary Jewish, lesbian poets’ array of experiences—relationships between and among women, family relationships, politics, solitude, ethical responsibilities, history, solidarity, and community. There will be a brief Q & A at the end of the reading.
Celebrating the Singular Heart: Women Poets Honor June Jordan’s Poetry on Sexual Assault***
The purpose of this panel is to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution June Jordan made to poetry, feminism, and society by speaking soul-bearing truths about sexual assault. Each poet will speak briefly about Jordan’s influence, read a favorite poem of Jordan’s that references sexual assault, and follow that with an original poem of their own that addresses the same issue. Following this, the floor will be open for audience discussion and sharing of ideas and poetry. Attendees are encouraged to share Jordan's influence on their lives, comment on the poems shared by panelists, and share their own favorite poems by her.
Poetry as Activism, Activism as Poetry: Poetic Interventions in the Public Sphere
How can poets mobilize poetry as a change agent? These poets demonstrate the ways that the arts can contribute to the defense of the environment, workers, and oppose war. Philip Metres will discuss the ways in which projects such as Peace Show (Cleveland) and the “Stories of War and Peace oral narratives project” have become counternarratives to war. Jonathan Skinner will present how engaged poets have responded to environmental catastrophe, in particular, poets' responses to the 2010 BP deepwater well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Jennifer Karmin will present images from her street performances Revolutionary Optimism and 4000 Words 4000 Dead. Ken Chen will talk about his activism and work around the Asian-American Writers workshop. Finally, Mark Nowak’s "Imaginative Militancy and Trade Union Poetics" will examine his collaborations with global trade unions in recalibrating the role of the poetry workshop.
Poetry from the Homefront
While the soldier-poet has long been a recognized figure in war literature, military families are only just beginning to make their voices heard. This reading will showcase the work of poets who are the parents, children, siblings, and spouses of military personnel. These poets will explore the ways in which poetry can be a means for speaking about the tensions between duty to family and duty to country, between the private and the public. Their poems will articulate the fears, loneliness, grief, and anxiety, which often come from being part of a military family.
Political Publishing: Building Community, Solidarity, Liberation
All political liberation movements must struggle to bring forward suppressed ideas. This was true in 1847 when Frederick Douglass first published the abolitionist North Star, and is still true in 2012 as the NYPD arrests the operators of Occupy Wall Street’s livestream. Three publishing veterans will speak about their struggles, strategies, and successes, ranging from the 1970s through today, in bringing political art to public spaces. They’ll ask audience members to share their experiences and new developments in political publishing.
2-3:30 pm PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
Tribute to Sam Hamill & Poets Against War
Before there was Split This Rock, Sam Hamill brought us Poets Against War. Join us as we pay tribute to this visionary man and the life-changing movement he launched. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, Hamill founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history, and galvanizing tens of thousands of poets to speak for peace. Sam Hamill also co-founded, and for 32 years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press, one our most influential poetry presses. The author of more than 40 books of poetry, essays, and translations, Sam Hamill is a model for the poet as public citizen. Poets who are activists in Split This Rock and the Poets Against War movement will read their own poems inspired by Hamill, followed by Hamill reading his own poems of provocation and witness. A book signing will follow.
Legacy of Loss and & Resistance: Honoring the Legacy of Poets Lost to AIDS
A panel of contemporary writers speak on the impact the work of poets who died of AIDS on their own writing and activism. Participants will read from the groundbreaking anthology Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS, and selections of their own poetry. We seek to lift up and explore the legacy of writers lost to the AIDS pandemic. We will read from these poets’ work and explore the ways their writing and activism form of legacy for subsequent generations of Gay writing and activist writing. Participants will dialogue on the lost legacy of some lesser known, or lesser remembered poets and discuss the ways these writers form an example of socially engaged poetry and the role of poetry in delineating the structures of oppression, the ability of targeted communities to engage in advocacy for expanded access to healthcare and life-saving research.
Arte Poética: The Politics of Choosing to Write En Español in the United States of America
This event includes a very brief reading followed by a roundtable discussion about the significance of writing in Spanish in the US. Each participant will read one poem from the Anthology Al pie de la Casa Blanca: poetas hispanos de Washington, DC (North American Academy of the Spanish Language, 2010). Each poem will be followed by its translation that will appear in the forthcoming English version of the anthology. The discussion will focus on the political implications of writing and publishing in Spanish within the US. Special attention will be given to the empowering role writing in Spanish can and must play within marginalized US-Latino populations. During this portion of the discussion, the facilitator will have specific questions for our panelists as writers and editors of Spanish language literature. Finally, we would like to open up participation to the public and field questions that may be addressed to the whole group or specific panelists.
Writing to the Media/Writing for the Media
Members of the crack communications team at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the nation’s oldest and most respected progressive think tank, offer a workshop on spreading the good word. Learn tips on attracting media attention for your programs, building relationships with members of the news media, and using social media to reach constituencies directly. You’ll also learn skills useful for writing opinion pieces for print, web, and radio outlets and receive samples and strategies to take home. Let’s bring poets’ voices to the center of public debate, where they belong.
Speaking and Listening to Somebody: Poetry for the People as a Non-violent Response to Violence***
In her teaching and her writing, June Jordan offered young poets the trust, and the tools, to respond to violence with courage, tenderness, and community. For many in our communities, the legacies of violence and other traumas persist. Today’s emerging writers recognize the “ugly bestial and repetitive assaults” chronicled in “Poem About Police Violence,” or “Poem About My Rights” mirrored in their own realities. How are current teachers and students of Poetry for the People using these tools to address violence and trauma on campuses? How do these tools translate to broader community work? How can artistic communities develop and cultivate resiliency for students and the greater community? Participants will be offered writing and experiential exercises, as well as small group discussions to explore the nature and politics of trauma, as well as practices of resiliency and models of implementation.
I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights
A reading and discussion by contributors to I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights (Lost Horse Press, 2010), in response to the violations of human rights occurring in our era—including but also reaching beyond this country's involvement in two wars (Iraq, Afghanistan) and now a NATO-led action in Libya. Poetry has always been a mode of truth-telling--even more so now, given these conditions of political, social, and cultural extremity that prevail in the new millennium. The poets and festival participants who contribute to this event will bear witness to such current exigencies, and also speak to honor a vision of a more just world.
4-5:30 pm PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
25 Years of Youth Poetry Programs in DC: What We Have Learned, Carrying it Forward
The Washington, DC, area has a rich history of youth poetry programs. This history includes the DC Writers Corps, The Writer’s Center, LatiNegro, Sol y Soul, Spoken Resistance , D.C. Creative Writing Workshop, Youth Poetry Slam League, 826DC, and Young Writers’ Academies/Passion for Learning. These programs have catalyzed publications, inspired audiences, and developed confidence as well as leadership and academic skills among participants. They have engaged educators and students in critical thinking about race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and politics, and furthered the social justice role of poetry in our community. This interactive panel features some of the past and current leaders of local youth poetry programs. We’ll explore successes and challenges, probe the role of youth poetry programs in activism and social justice work, discuss lessons learned, create a Mural Timeline, make new connections, tell stories, and, of course, share poetry.
Courage Tastes Like Cinnamon: The Poetic Imagination and Peacebuilding, A Conversation with Children From Iraq
Stage & Page: What’s the Fuss?
Poets who straddle performance and publication will grapple with the relationship between “spoken word” and “poetry.” Are they different art forms or two sides of the poetry coin? What’s with the antagonism that arises between them sometimes? Is it really about something other than aesthetics, such as race and class? If so, how do we talk about these issues honestly? And what can poets from these two worlds learn from one another? Join the conversation as we build bridges and build a progressive poetry movement that unites us, despite, in spite of, because of our many and glorious differences.
The Next 50 Years: The Institute for Policy Studies & The Future of the Progressive Movement
How can progressives build a truly transformative movement for peace and social justice? Can we build on the momentum from this year’s Occupations to change not just the discourse but the direction of our country? And how can social movements incorporate poetry and the arts into their strategies for change? Split This Rock partner the Institute for Policy Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013. Join Founder Marcus Raskin, Director John Cavanagh, New Internationalism Program Fellow Phyllis Bennis, and Newman Fellow Matias Ramos Goralczuk in a discussion of the next 50 years of progressive activism.
The Power of Code-Switching: Poems Don’t Have to be “English Only”
Code-switching—which means switching languages or dialects within a single piece of writing or poem—may capture more fully the voice of a poet who lives, dreams, and speaks in more than one language or dialect. In this workshop, participants will receive, read aloud, and briefly discuss a few poems that code-switch linguistically and culturally, the poetic intent behind code-switching poems, the intended audience, and the question of offering translations (or not) while or after performing. Then, with writing prompts, participants will be guided through first drafts of poems that celebrate—and do not minimize—the complexity of their lived experiences in more than one language, dialect and culture. A multi-linguist (English, Spanish, German, and conversational Farsi), María Luisa Arroyo invites participates to own their own languages and dialects as they write and read aloud their first drafts.
Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion, & Spirituality Anthology Reading
Collective Brightness is the first-ever LGBTIQ poetry anthology that exclusively features contemporary poets—more than 100 of them from all over the world—as they consider faith, religion, and spirituality from widely varied perspectives including Christianity, witchcraft, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Two Spirit, Agnosticism, Apophasis and Yoruba among others. Together, the poets assembled for the Split This Rock reading—poets from all over America and from various racial, ethnic and religious communities—will read a wide array of these poems.
7:30-9:30 pm FEATURED READING: Douglas Kearney, Kim Roberts, and Sonia Sanchez
10-11:30 pm OPEN MIC- Hosted by Regie Cabico (Busboys and Poets)