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Split This Rock programs integrate poetry into public life and supports poets of all ages who write and perform this essential work. Its programs include readings, workshops, and panel discussions; youth programs that reach every ward in the city; collaborative programs that bring poetry of provocation and witness to new audiences; contests and publication projects; and campaigns to integrate poetry into movements for social change. Our cornerstone program, Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, is a unique biennial four-day event.


Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness: Every two years poets, activists, and dreamers gather in our nation’s capital for four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism. Next festival: April 14-17, 2016. Join us! Watch for details on the 2016 festival webpage.

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016 (January – March 2016) is a book arts and cultural festival which will take place throughout the Washington, D.C. area. Exhibits, programs, and events will commemorate the 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s historic bookselling street, and celebrate the free exchange of ideas and knowledge. Join us as we stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq who have endured so much and with people at home and abroad who are unable to make their voices heard. More information is available on the festival website.

Readings and Workshops

The monthly Sunday Kind of Love poetry series takes place at the 14th & V Streets location of Busboys and Poets the third Sunday of the month, 5-7 pm, co-sponsored by Busboys and Poets. The series presents a diverse line-up of prominent local and national poets to a lively and engaged audience. Only $5.

Split This Rock also offers frequent poetry workshops, attended by a wide diversity of practicing writers, from beginners to well established poets. Past workshop leaders include: John Murillo, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Brenda Hillman, Gayle Danley, Jericho Brown, and Eduardo C. Corral, among others. Currently, there are a free bi-monthly poetry writing workshops, held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month, as well as workshops specifically for teens. Check the upcoming events page for details.

Youth Programming

Split This Rock Youth Programs include the DC Youth Slam Team (DCYST); Louder Than a Bomb, a DC-MD-VA high school poetry slam team annual competition; the World & Me Poetry Contest, a citywide contest of written poetry for children and youth; weekly workshops at schools and libraries; a monthly youth open mic; performances and workshops at universities and national youth conferences; extensive youth programming at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, and more.

Contests, Awards, and Publications

Each year, Split This Rock sponsors a national poetry contest, which serves to raise the visibility and prestige of poetry of provocation and witness. Past judges have included: Kyle Dargan, Mark Doty, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tim Seibles, Jan Beatty, and Chris Abani.

In 2013, with generous support from the CrossCurrents Foundation, Split This Rock launched the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, honoring a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change.

In 2009 we launched a Poem of the Week series, publishing and sharing a contemporary socially engaged poem each Friday. Readers are encouraged to share the poems widely and to use them in community work and in other public contexts. We draw from our national constituency for poems, with a strong representation by DC-area poets.

Split This Rock has partnered with one of its co-founders Melissa Tuckey to compile and publish Ghost Hunting: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press. The anthology will include poems that recognize our human impact on the natural world as well as political and cultural dimensions of our relationship with the environment. Melissa is available for speaking engagements and interviews on the book. Contact her directly for more information at

Community Collaborations

Collaborative projects take place throughout the year, leveraging the resources of other organizations to enrich the cultural life of the city. In September each year, for example, we present a reading by a prominent poet in collaboration with the Fall for the Book Festival, based at George Mason University. Past poets include Eduardo C. Corral, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Brenda Hillman.

Split This Rock poets also read at community events, fundraisers, and social actions, providing sustenance and inspiration to advocates and community members. For example, Split This Rock poets read at the events marking the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. We also have collaborated with the Labor Heritage Foundation to provide poetry programming at their annual Great Labor Arts Exchange.

Poets’ Voices in the Media

Through our partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies and through other contacts, Split This Rock arranges for poets to write commentaries and appear in the media discussing critical social issues. In recent examples, Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa appeared on the nationally syndicated PRI’s The World discussing the role the arts are playing in reconstructing his home country and Alice Walker wrote an opinion piece that appeared in The Progressive, celebrating Split This Rock Poetry Festival.