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 (***).
Saturday, March 24
9 am - 4:30 pm REGISTRATION/CHECK-IN (Thurgood Marshall Center)
9:30-11 am PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
The Radical Roots of Washington Literature
The creators of a web-exhibit on Washington's literary history lead a discussion on the richness of poetry, fiction, and memoir rooted in our historical and geographic lineage. The DC Writers' Homes website features over 125 authors who called this region home, including numerous radical writers from the abolitionist movement to the civil rights era to leaders of anti-Vietnam War protests. Learn about the DC history of such writers as Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Anne Porter, Rachel Carson, and others. Join Kim Roberts and Dan Vera as they discuss the importance of knowing and honoring your community's literary history and its effect on one's work.
Even in Polite Company: Women Write Their Own Truths
As young girls, many women were told that some things were not to be discussed in polite company. Subsequently, women’s issues and/or truths were discussed only amongst themselves in hushed whispers in hot kitchens, over scrub boards or on playgrounds. This resulted in shame and isolation. While networks of women are affirming and necessary to the mental, emotional, physical and financial health of women as a whole, the absence of open, plain talk about women’s issues leaves a void in the social and political dialogue. Issues left out of the national dialogue are left out of the legal, legislative and budgetary dialogues, as well. Subsequently, as a demographic, women are often left unprotected. This panel discussion will focus on the necessity of writing about feminist/womanist issues in a nation leaning toward conservatism; teaching women’s issues in co-ed classrooms and the perils for women writers who unreservedly write and speak their truth in polite company.
Something Lost, Something Gained: Translation and Multilingualism in a Globalized World
In this writing and translation work/experiment/playshop, we will each explore our relationship to language loss—from the global to the personal levels. Linguists predict that half of the approximately six thousand languages currently spoken in the world will be extinct by the end of the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, many of us have lost the languages of our grandparents, because of racism and other forms of oppression in this country. Literary translation offers a proactive response to these colossal losses, allowing English-only readers to appreciate literature produced in one (or more) of those other six thousand languages. Most of our time together will be devoted to individual and collaborative poetry writing and translation exercises. Activities will include Responding to writing prompts that explore the languages of our great-grandparents and our great-grandchildren; Completing homophonic translations (those based on sound—actual, assumed, or imagined—of poetry); and Collaborating on a translation exercise.
Talking Trash: Poetry Chapbooks and Broadsides
This workshop will focus on producing poetry chapbooks and broadsides in a DIY practice of poetry publication and distribution. Working with gleaned trash and poems from the Poets for Living Waters website, we will fuse plastic bags, hand-stamp letters, and bind pages to create finished products for circulation in a poetry economy. Materials will be provided, and examples of both trash chapbooks and trash art more generally will be reviewed for inspiration. Participants will be encouraged to engage the creative potential of trash in whatever ways they find engaging and supported to innovate.
Walking the Distance of Your Vision: Generating Poetry through Community Awareness & Self-Identity
Every neighborhood possesses sounds, smells, sights, and characters. Yet, often we bustle down the block taking those elements for granted, oblivious to change all around us. Based on pedagogy from Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community, co-authored by Lansana and Popoff, this workshop invites participants to craft exploratory poems about their neighborhoods, including memorable people and places. In practice, this lesson plan includes a poetry walk around the neighborhood, with visits to the places and interviews/talks with the community members featured in their poems. The session will present resources and strategies for classroom teachers, teaching artists, and poets interested in mining from their immediate environment. The session will include interactive exercises, kinesthetic examination of a poem, and writing prompts that may be directly translated into the classroom or new manuscript.
Intersecting Lineages: a Solidarity Showcase of African American and Asian American Poets
Inspired by the collaboration and mentorship between Cave Canem (an organization which promotes African American poetry) and Kundiman (an organization which promotes Asian American poetry), this reading features poets hailing from these communities which will showcase the history of solidarity amongst diverse communities. Kazim Ali, Ching-In Chen, Rio Cortez, Rachelle Cruz, Aricka Foreman, Monica A. Hand, Soham Patel, Barbara Jane Reyes, and Kevin Simmonds will begin by reading work by ancestor poets who are considered outside of their self-identified community/-ities. Following this, they will share their own work which highlights this kind of productive hybrid fertilization, including inspiration taken from various literary and other creative arts forms such as the zuihitsu, neo-benshi and the theatrical jazz aesthetic. This reading highlights the cultivation and growth which arises from the exchange between African American and Asian American poets.
Poetry for the People and the Teaching Vision of June Jordan***
Founded by June Jordan in 1991 at UC Berkeley, Poetry for the People (P4P) provides a unique and collectively-developed pedagogical model for political and artistic empowerment through the teaching of poetry. A culmination of June Jordan’s career as a politically engaged teacher and poet, Poetry for the People aims at furthering the vision of Martin Luther King’s “beloved community.” Former student teacher poets and colleagues of June Jordan, architects behind June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint, and directors of Poetry for the People programs will provide a historical perspective on the founding and growth of P4P.
11:30 am - 1 pm PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
Young Voices for Justice and Peace: Youth Speak Out!
What are the social justice issues that young people care about today? What exactly is the change that everyone says we should work for? Join us for a fishbowl style discussion where the adults sit on the outside and can only listen, while the young people inside the “bowl” discuss the injustices that get them most fired-up. No issue is off the table. No language is censored. You want to hear what young people really think? You want to see the issues that young people are really passionate about? We address these issues in our poetry all the time. Now it’s time to address them in a facilitated conversation so that we can be clear about where we stand and how we feel. Adults will have a chance to submit questions to the fishbowl, and youth will also have the chance to question adults (and each other).
This event is a panel presentation with topic “the use of numbers to create vivid specificity in poetry of provocation and witness.” Panelists include writers of poetry and fiction who have also had special experiences with the power of numbers—a war veteran, a think tank administrator, and a mathematician. The event will begin with performances of poems selected from various poets—from June Jordan and Nazim Hikmet and Etheridge Knight to the panelists themselves—illustrating effective and powerful use of numerical information. After a program of presentations, participants will be given samples of numerical information (or invited to use their own sources) to develop into poems, in their own ways or following techniques introduced. Sharing of this new work will conclude the event. In times when strong and honest voices are needed, poets assume the role penned by Irena Klepfisz in “Bashert”—I am a keeper of accounts.
The Way the World Begins Again: An Intergenerational Poetry Workshop Based on June Jordan’s Theories of Children’s Literature***
This is a child-inclusive intergenerational poetry workshop based on the successful initiation of the June Jordan Saturday Survival School in Durham, North Carolina, where whole families used concepts from June Jordan’s unpublished essays, “Towards a Survival Literature for Afrikan Children” (first presented in Washington DC in 1976) and “The Creative Spirit and Children’s Literature.” The activities will include collaborative marker mural-making based on quotations from Jordan’s essays, fill-in-the-blank poem-making based on June Jordan’s Kimako’s Story, and the creation of a group new age “Who Look at Me” based on June Jordan’s first children’s book.
Advancing Justice with the Poetry of Witness and Community Engagement: Kundiman’s Together We Are New York in Re-Envisioning 9/11
Beauty Is a Verb: New Poetry of Disability
A reading by poets featured in the new anthology Beauty is a Verb: New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). We hope to follow the reading by a question and answer session that engages members of the audience in considering issues of disability and poetics. Beauty is a Verb features poetry and poetics essays by diverse poets with disabilities. The most comprehensive such anthology to date, it looks at multiple ways disability experience impacts poetics and poetic practice. Issues of disability engage with key issues for poets of our time from commodification of the body to the nature of beauty and function. We hope the reading and the question and answer session which follows will give people a sense of the diverse poetics of disability from “crip poetics” to the influence of the disability experience on open field and avant-garde poets from Larry Eigner to Norma Cole.
Prophetic Tones: Resonance and Resistance in Poetry
Uttering prophetic words is always dangerous business. What social and political conditions have surrounded or given rise to public utterances that we now call “prophetic”? How have these poets and poems shown resistance and vision for the future? Shannon Berry will examine the work of farmer-poet Wendell Berry in the context of liberation theology. Jericho Brown will explore events around the 1955 release of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as an act of civil disobedience against the “obscenity laws.” Katherine Anderson Howell will focus on the use of metaphor by Audre Lorde and her view that “Poetry is not a luxury.” Rose Marie Berger highlights the poetry of 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana de la Cruz and what led to her writing the first feminist manifesto in the Americas.
Daytime Open Mic
Hosted by the fabulous Regie Cabico. Speak your mind, speak your truth, split some rocks. Bring a 3-minute poem and sign up at the door.
2-3:30 pm PANELS, WORKSHOPS, AND THEMED READINGS
Voices of the Next Generation: Youth Open Mic
The DC Youth Slam will host a youth-focused, youth-led open mic. This is the perfect setting to hear the next generation of young up-and-coming poets roar on stage as the voice of the new generation speaking for justice. Whether you have just begun to write or you have been putting together words and rhymes since you were first able to grasp a pen, all youth (under 20) are welcome to share their poetry of triumph and laughter, conscience and critique, moments of sadness and weakness and everything in between. We provide a space where the youth can feel safe to offer their words, inspire the audience, and be inspired. Special guest adult poets (who all work with young people) Carlos Andres Gomez, Pages Matam, YaYa Bey, and Jonathan B. Tucker will also perform.
(We) Who Would Be Free***
A discussion about poetry and environmental justice. In June Jordan's poem titled after a quote from Frederick Douglass, "who would be free must strike the first blow," Jordan makes a connection between our silence in response to environmental atrocities and Douglas' call to action. Jordan's poem is a call for justice and a call to voice. In a time of environmental crisis, oil spills, nuclear accidents, genetic modification of foods, who will speak for the river? The cow? The milk? Who will speak for future generations? How can poetry/ art contribute to the cultural shift that's necessary to sustain healthy lives? Panelists bring to the discussion poetry, ideas for action, international perspective. Participants will be invited to join the discussion and connect with others who share their concerns.
The Power of Poetry & Yoga
Power can be viewed as a marked ability to do or inspire others to do something. Like poetry, yoga can be used to find (and maintain) your voice, your calling, and the things that matter most to you. As creative practices, both poetry and yoga can help you “power” through the difficult times, stay centered and focused on the bigger picture, attract others who share your values, and help you make life-affirming choices filled with integrity and compassion. We will use movements and brief readings and prompts to help us explore our personal relationships to power.
Poetry, Politics & Propaganda: Personal & Collective Forms of Resistance from Around the World
The last twelve months have seen numerous oppressive governments collapse in response to organized public protest. This timely panel will bring together four poets from very different parts of the world, each of whom has challenged censorship and discrimination through their own writing. Poets from the former USSR, Iran, Sri Lanka, and the USA will compare their own distinct approaches to challenging political orthodoxies through their poetry. By bringing together poets who have served as translators, teachers, editors and leaders of poetry organizations, the panel will explore their personal experiences of both private and collective forms of resistance, and will aim to build bridges with the daily experience of poets in the audience.
Before There Is Nowhere to Stand, Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle
In the act and process of building peace, Before There Is Nowhere to Stand, Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle is a reading by contributors to the forthcoming anthology. (Lost Horse Press; readers represent over 70 contributing poets.) Confronting dominant narratives, which often frame conflict in Israel/Palestine as two peoples who just don’t understand each other and need to get along, the poets make way into the complexities and asymmetry of the political and historical contexts of systemic violence and militarized occupation. These poems, from Arab, Jewish and other contributors, give witness to atrocities and provoke courage in the struggle for justice and peace.
White Poets Writing About Race: An Invitation to Conversation
In his 2007 essay “A Mystifying Silence,” Major Jackson asks why there should be a “dearth of poems written by white poets that address racial issues.” Six white poets who have written about race will make very brief presentations that address not only this problem, but also questions of why and how white poets can and should deal with racial issues, and what aesthetic and ethical complexities they may encounter in doing so. By limiting our presentations to five minutes each, we will save most of the session for group discussion.
4:30-6:30 pm FEATURED READING: Khaled Mattawa, Marilyn Nelson, Jose Padua, and Minnie Bruce Pratt
8:30-10 pm FEATURED READING: Rachel McKibbens and Alice Walker
10 pm - 1 am RECEPTION & DANCE PARTY