Who We Are
Split This Rock calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from our home in the nation’s capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.
Split This Rock is dedicated to revitalizing poetry as a living, breathing art form with profound relevance in our daily lives and struggles. Our programs integrate poetry of provocation and witness into movements for social justice and support the poets of all ages who write and perform this vital work.
The name "Split This Rock" is pulled from a line in “Big Buddy,” a poem from Langston Hughes.
Don’t you hear this hammer ring?
I’m gonna split this rock
And split it wide!
When I split this rock,
Stand by my side.
The work of writing the poems that split open the injustices in society is in some ways a solitary act, but it is also an act that requires community. Split This Rock calls all of us to split this rock, and to do it together.
What We Do
Split This Rock explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
Sarah Browning is Director of Split This Rock and DC Poets Against the War, author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007), and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press, 2004). The recipient of an artist fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, she has also received a Creative Communities Initiative grant and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. Browning has worked as a community organizer in Boston public housing and as a political organizer for reproductive rights, gay rights, and electoral reform, and against poverty, South African apartheid, and U.S. militarism. She was founding director of Amherst Writers & Artists Institute — creative writing workshops for low-income women and youth — and Assistant Director of The Fund for Women Artists, an organization supporting socially engaged art by women. She has written essays and interviewed poets and artists for a variety of publications.
Alicia Gregory is Split This Rock's Program Assistant and an MFA candidate at American University, where she serves as Poetry Editor for Folio, the university's nationally recognized literary journal. She has written for Foreign Policy in Focus and was named a Lannan Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library for 2011-2012. She has lived in South Africa, where she studied the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and anti-apartheid literature.
Pages Matam is a poet/emcee originally from Cameroon, Africa. His features have included The Kennedy Center; colleges and universities such as Columbia University; & BETJ Lyric Café. He has touched stages with the likes of Ainsley Burrows, Oveous Maximus, opened for Raheem DeVaughn, Afrika Bambaata, and many others. In addition to winning multiple local slams, he is also the 2010 & 2012 DC Grand Slam Champion, a host at Busboys and Poets, and co-host of GraffitiDC Slam Series.
Elli Nagai-Rothe is Split This Rock’s Managing Director. A peacemaker and facilitator with strong social justice values, Elli has more than 10 years of experience working with social change organizations, locally and internationally. She completed her MA degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, with a focus on global race relations and inter-group dialogue as a tool for peacemaking. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to New Zealand in 2011 and conducted her research in affiliation with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission on institutional racism and promising strategies to address racial inequity. Elli has roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, and connections to poetry and the arts from a young age.
Jonathan B. Tucker is a performance poet, facilitator, youth worker/advocate, community organizer and Split This Rock's Youth Programs Coordinator. He uses performance art to start conversations about social justice issues, focusing his efforts primarily on engaging and supporting young artists and activists in the DC/MD/VA area. He has led high school students on year-long journeys with Operation Understanding DC, exploring cross-cultural dialogue and traveling down south to study the Civil Rights Movement. He is currently a grantee with the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities’ Young Artists Program, using spoken word poetry as a vehicle for peer education around HIV/AIDS with a group from Children’s Hospital called Teens Against the Spread of AIDS. Jonathan also works with Teaching for Change and regularly hosts open mics and slams at Busboys and Poets, BloomBars, The Fridge, and other community art spaces in which he also teaches creative writing and performance.
Kit Bonson is a neuroscientist in the DC area with an undergrad degree in English and psychology from the University of Iowa. She has been an activist for peace and justice and for women’s reproductive health for over 30 years. During this time, she has been invested in involving socially committed artists of many stripes into her political organizing – whether it was writers, visual artists or musicians. Most recently, she initiated a collaboration between Split This Rock and the Abortion Care Network (a national group of independent providers and prochoice supporters of which she is also a Board member) for a Prochoice Poetry Contest – now in its second year!
Regie Cabico is the Director of Split This Rock’s World & Me youth poetry contest and Artistic Director for Sol & Soul. Cabico is a poet, playwright, and spoken word performer. He took top prizes at the 1993, 1994, and 1997 National Poetry Slams. His work appears in over 30 anthologies and he co-edited Poetry Nation: A North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry. He received a NYFA Artist Fellowship for Poetry in 1997, NYFAs in 2003 for Poetry and Performance Art, and two Brooklyn Arts Council Poetry Awards. Cabico has been a teacher for Urban Word and developed a poetry and performance program for teens with psychiatric illness at Bellevue Hospital. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers in recognition of his work with diverse communities.
Yael Flusberg's life’s work integrates activism, teaching, and advising with the literary and healing arts. Yael attributes her love of combining the written word with social justice values to being the first-generation US-born daughter of a newspaper printer and a genocide survivor. Yael brings 20 years of experience developing strategy, catalyzing organizational change, and enhancing leadership capacity with diverse communities to the Split This Rock board. She has served as a co-founder, consultant, and Board member of many nonprofits. Yael is the Director of Y Elements: Practices for Transformation, a boutique firm which offers nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, social entrepreneurs, and artists an integrative line of services which include executive coaching; strategy and planning; training and facilitation; resource development; writing workshops; and somatic practices. Yael has a Master of Science in International Development Management from the American University, and is a certified yoga and Reiki teacher. Her book, The Last of My Village, won Poetica Magazine's 2010 Chapbook Contest.
Susan Scheid is the author of After Enchantment (2012). Her poetry has appeared in Tidal Basin Review, Requiem, Rose Red Review, The Unrorean, Bark! and the chapbook, Poetic Art. Susan is an Artist-in Residence at the Noyes School of Rhythm in Connecticut and teaches daily writing workshops for one week each summer. She lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC, where she has been a community organizer for thirty years, helping to open a community-owned grocery and served on its board of directors. Susan has a B.A. in Anthropology from Catholic University.
Maritza Rivera is a U.S. Army Veteran long active in the Washington, DC poetry community. Founder of the weekly Mariposa Poetry Series in College Park, MD, she hosts the annual Mariposa Poetry Retreat in Waynesboro, PA. A contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070; Maritza's been active in the Memorial Day Writer’s Project (MDWP) and the Warrior Poetry Project at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. Maritza has been writing poetry for over forty years and her work has been published in literary journals, anthologies and online publications including: Sojourners, Gargoyle, Poetic Voices Without Borders, ARLIJO and MilSpeak.org. Her books include About You and A Mother’s War, written during her son’s two tours in Iraq. She was the recipient of 2012 BID International Writing Fellowship in Bahia, Brazil and a 2013 Bread Loaf Writers Fellowship Conference to Sicily, Italy.
Sonya Renee Taylor is an award-winning poet and activist. Founder of The Body is Not An Apology and the creator of the RUHCUS Project, her poetry appears in numerous journals and anthologies including Spoken Word Revolution:Redux, Growing Up Girl, Off Our Backs, Beltway Quarterly, Just Like A Girl, X Magazine and On the Issues Magazine. Her first collection of poetry, A Little Truth on Your Shirt was released by GirlChild Press in 2010. Sonya’s work has been translated into Dutch, Swedish and German, used as curriculum in universities across the country and abroad, and as a tool for community and national action for organizations such as the Black AIDS Institute, HIV Campus Education, and Gloria Steinem’s reproductive rights organization, Choice USA. For more, visit www.sonya-renee.com
Melissa Tuckey is the author of Tenuous Chapel (ABZ Press, 2013), winner of the 2012 ABZ First Book Prize, and Rope as Witness, a chapbook published by Puddinghouse Press. She’s received a Fine Arts Work Center residency, among other awards for her writing. Her poetry has been anthologized in DC Poets Against the War, Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing, Poets for Palestine, Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds: The Teachers of Writers Corps in Poetry and Prose, and is forthcoming in Ecopoetry: A Contemporary American Anthology. Melissa is co-translator with Chun Ye and Fiona Sze-Lorrain of Chinese poet Yang Zi’s collected works, which have been published by Conjunctions, Manoa, Witness, and other journals. She serves as Poetry Editor at the online journal Foreign Policy in Focus (a think tank without walls). Melissa Tuckey teaches at Ithaca College, and lives in Ithaca, New York. She has been with Split This Rock since its inception and served as a founding co-director before joining the Board of Directors.
Dan Vera, Board Chair, is a writer, editor, and literary historian living in Washington, DC. He is the author of the two poetry collections Speaking Wiri Wiri (Red Hen, 2013), inaugural winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, and The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books, 2008). His poetry has appeared in various journals including Notre Dame Review, Beltway Poetry, Delaware Poetry Review, Gargoyle,and Little Patuxent Review, the anthologies Divining Divas, Full Moon On K Street, and DC Poets Against the War. He edits the gay culture journal White Crane and co-created the literary history site, DC Writers’ Homes. For more, visit www.danvera.com.
Naomi Ayala is a teacher, education consultant, freelance writer and translator. Her first book of poetry, Wild Animals on the Moon (Curbstone Press, 1997), was selected by the New York Public Library as a Book for the Teen Age. Her second book, This Side of Early, was published by Curbstone to great acclaim in 2009. Ayala’s poetry has appeared in such journals as Callaloo, The Village Voice, The Caribbean Writer, and The Massachusetts Review. She has received two artist fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities.
Teri Ellen Cross Davis graduated with a MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from American University. She is a Cave Canem fellow. She has had poems published in many anthologies, including Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam and Cave Canem: Gathering Ground and online at Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She is the Poetry and Lectures Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library and was formerly a producer with WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show.
Kyle G. Dargan is the founding editor of Post No Ills magazine. He is the author of Logorrhea Dementia: A Self Diagnosis (University of Georgia, 2010), Bouquet of Hungers (University of Georgia, 2008), and The Listening, winner of the 2003 Cave Canem Prize. His poems and non-fiction have appeared in publications such as Callaloo, Denver Quarterly, The Newark Star-Ledger, Ploughshares, The Root, and Shenandoah. He was most recently the Managing Editor of Callaloo. Dargan has received fellowships to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, as well as a scholarship to attend The Fine Arts Work Center. He was judge of Split This Rock’s inaugural poetry contest for adult writers in 2008.
Martín Espada, called “the Latino poet of his generation” and “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors,” has published sixteen books in all as a poet, editor, essayist and translator, including The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2012), Crucifixion in the Plaza de Armas (Smokestack, 2008), released in England, and La Tumba de Buenaventura Roig (Terranova, 2008), a bilingual edition published in Puerto Rico. The Republic of Poetry, a collection of poems published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Another collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A former tenant lawyer, Espada is now a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda. For more, visit www.martinespada.net
E. Ethelbert Miller is a board member at The Writer’s Center and editor of Poet Lore. The author of several collections of poems, his last book is How We Sleep on the Nights We Don’t Make Love (Curbstone Press 2004). His memoir, The Fifth Inning (PM Press) was released in 2009. Mr. Miller is the Board Chair for the Institute for Policy Studies, and since 1974 has been the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University. He is the former Chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, and a former core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College.
Carolyn Forché is Lannan Visiting Professor of Poetry and Professor of English at Georgetown University. Known as a “poet of witness,” she is the author of four books of poetry. Her first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Her second book, The Country Between Us (Harper and Row, 1982), received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. In 1994, her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her fourth book of poems, Blue Hour, was published by HarperCollins in Spring 2003. Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993.
Sam Hamill is the author of more than forty books, including fifteen volumes of original poetry (most recently Measured by Stone and Almost Paradise: New & Selected Poems & Translations); four collections of literary essays, including A Poet’s Work and Avocations: On Poetry & Poets; and some of the most distinguished translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese classics of the last half-century. He co-founded, and for thirty-two years was editor at, Copper Canyon Press. He taught in prisons for fourteen years and has worked extensively with battered women and children. An outspoken political pacifist, in 2003, declining an invitation to the White House, he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme poetry anthology in history. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He presently divides his time between his studio in Port Townsend, Washington, and Buenos Aires.
Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927. His volumes of poetry include A New Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), a finalist for the National Book Award; Imperfect Thirst (1996); When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone (1990); Selected Poems (1980), for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980); The Book of Nightmares (1971); Body Rags (1968); Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock (1964); and What a Kingdom It Was (1960). He has also published translations of works by Yves Bonnefroy, Yvanne Goll, and François Villon, and, this year, Rainer Maria Rilke. Kinnell divides his time between Vermont and New York City, where he is the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. He is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.
Alicia Suskin Ostriker's collection The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Her other books of poetry include The Crack in Everything (1996), a National Book Award finalist that won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. She has written several critical works, including Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (1986).
Kim Roberts is the author of three books of poems: Animal Magnetism (winner of the 2009 Pearl Poetry Prize, published 2011), The Kimnama (Vrzhu Press, 2007) and The Wishbone Galaxy (WWPH, 1994). She is the editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and co-editor of Delaware Poetry Review. She has done extensive research on the literary history of Washington, DC, publishing articles and tours on Walt Whitman, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes, among others. Kim is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the DC Commission on the Arts, and the Humanities Council of Washington. She has been awarded writer's residencies from twelve artist colonies. She is also one of the creators of DC Writer Houses (with Dan Vera). For more, visit www.kimroberts.org
Patricia Smith is the author of five books of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, chronicling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, a choice for Library Journal's Best Poetry Books of 2008, and one of NPR's top five books of 2008; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection, winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and About.com’s Best Poetry Book of 2006. She also authored the ground-breaking history Africans in America and the award-winning children’s book Janna and the Kings. She is a professor at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island, and is on the faculty of both Cave Canem and the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.