Program & Schedule - Saturday, April 21, 2018
Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018 invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for three 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.
REGISTER ONLINE TO ATTEND THE FESTIVAL!
Early bird rates available until Friday, February 23. Online registration ends March 28. On-site registration available during the festival (see schedule for specific times).
Keep watch for when the festival mobile app goes live! You'll be able to download it to stay updated!
Click the links below to view each day's program. All venues are wheelchair accessible.
NOTE: Schedule below is subject to slight changes.
Saturday, April 21
REGISTRATION 8:30 am – 2 pm
National Housing Center
10 am to 3:30 pm
Split This Rock Social Justice BOOK FAIR
Join us for a Social Change Book Fair, featuring the critically important work of socially engaged poets, writers, organizations, progressive presses, literary magazines, and independent newspapers, many of whom are also festival participants. This event is FREE and open to the public. More details and list of exhibitors will be available in the program book.
9 - 10:30 am
20 Years of Voice: Teaching, Writing & Activism with Community-Word Project (Panel)
For 20 years, Community-Word Project has trained and prepared practicing artists to bring their craft to the classroom through rich social justice–based pedagogy and experiential learning. Graduates of the Teaching Artist Project have gone on to lead extraordinary teaching and artistic lives, blending both their artistic and activist work with tools they learned in the program. In this group reading, we’ll hear work from graduates of the program, as well as snapshots of some of their students’ work. Following the readings, there will be a panel moderated by CWP Founder & Executive Director Michele Kotler, exploring a variety of themes around teaching for social justice: How did this teaching artist training affect your creative work? How does your activism inform your writing, and vice versa? How does a social justice philosophy translate to the classroom? We’ll dive deep into these exploratory questions with these seasoned teaching artists. We’ll also do some collaborative art-making with the audience so that we can experience art and activism in action.
"Against Death What Other Stay Than Love": Disabled Poets Read (Reading)
The physical presence of D/deaf and disabled poets gathered together in a time of #DisabilityTooWhite, #EverydayAbleism, #CriptheVote, and #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs is a privilege, a joy, and a call to action. These poets come bearing the gift of their affection and rage for the world, despite its often overt rejection of them. This intergenerational reading of five D/deaf and disabled women and nonbinary poets from racially and regionally diverse backgrounds aims to edify and charge, reclaim and resist. The likelihood that cuts to healthcare in the United States will kill our D/deaf and disabled poets is high. If it’s true that poetry trains our attention to the world in a way that might make us less likely to destroy it, why is poetry where disabled lives arrive always already reduced to metaphor? Queen confirms, “Violence, I know you/so well you’re like my real/lover,” and Weise reminds, “If we write, it’s identity/If they write, it’s Reflections on American Legacy.” Give us back our deaf skies, our blind hearts, our lame attempts, our crippled dreams. Give us your attention so we can direct it proper. Accessible conversation and scheming will follow.
Exploring The Quarry: A Professional Development Session for Educators, Open to All (Workshop)
This workshop will offer educators and activists guidance on using The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database as a learning and awareness-building tool. Searchable by social justice theme and author identity, The Quarry is a rich collection of over 450 poems by a diverse array of contemporary socially engaged poets. Available online at no cost, poems in the database are available in print and video format. The workshop will provide an overview of search methods and examples of lesson plans drawn from the database developed by Split This Rock Youth Programs. The session will include an overview of content in the database, as well as demonstrations of how the poems can be discussed and analyzed. Discussion will be followed by a workshop allowing participants to develop their own uses of The Quarry and its poems. Presenters will also offer guidance for activists of all ages in using this free resource to embolden their groups and speak truth to power in the public sphere. Visit The Quarry here: www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database.
Fantasy As Reality: Activism and Catharsis Through Speculative Writing (Panel)
This panel will demonstrate how non-realist poems and prose can offer a space for political critique and empowerment. We will ask audience members about their own speculative writing and reading experiences and offer prompts to those who wish to work on similar future writing. Speculative and science fiction are often stereotyped as futuristic, extraterrestrial, and fantastical romps through universes using space travel, time travel, and super-advanced technology centered on white cis males. However, women, non-binary, and activist writers of speculative literature are purposefully subverting this stereotype, diversifying and owning the fantastical worlds that they imagine. Speculative literature, at its core, is about giving voice to “The Other.” Speculative writing, in prose or poetry, focuses on not only imagined realities of the future, past, and present but also gives voice to bodies and individuals who are disabled, alien, marginalized, menial workers, and other traditionally neglected voices. Sci-fi and fantasy characters and voices can—and should—represent the underrepresented to create a sense of community as well as to challenge injustices in our real world.
Kevlar Hearts: Poetic Strategies for Engaging Police Violence (Panel)
While unlawful state-sponsored and police violence against American citizens is nothing new, the recent abundance of video footage documenting such violence presents a dilemma for those affected by and moved to write about such subjects. Often, the poem is no longer needed to inform an audience. In fact, many are overwhelmed (to different effects) by the social and news media dissemination of this graphic footage. For those who remain indifferent to this tragedy, and those who are pushed to the brink of emotional and psychic exhaustion, how can the poem address these matters in an impactful way—moving beyond documentation to effective impact in some cases and healing in others In this panel, four poets actively engaged in poetry writing as a means of resisting this status quo around police violence, and uplifting those who must face it daily will briefly read their work; they will then shift to discussing their strategies in writing about police violence and how such writing challenges them as poets and as human beings.
The Next 10 Years! Ideas for Split This Rock's Future
Join Split This Rock leaders as we dream the next 10 years for the organization. In our first 10 years Split This Rock has had a remarkable impact on our country’s literary culture, helping to bring voices of conscience to greater prominence and cultivating young poets. The Quarry is an invaluable tool for activism and learning that grows each week, on target to reach 500 poems this year. And Split This Rock’s youth program is a powerhouse, amplifying the voices of youth throughout the DC area and strengthening the teaching of poetry immeasurably. So what’s next? How can Split This Rock serve you better and have an impact in your community? Would you like to build a local chapter or loose affiliate? Bring your ideas and your energy!
Walk Towards It: Poetry for the World We Deserve (Reading)
This is a reading of poems from Walk Towards It, an anthology that was conceived, created, edited, and released into the world between the election of Trump and his inauguration. A diverse group of poets from the Midwest shares poems that serve as talismans against isolation and despair and offer BEAUTY because you deserve beauty. We are building circles of resistance, circles of remembering, circles of creativity, circles of healing. Walk Towards It puts Women—especially Women of Color—and Indigenous and Black and Transgender and Queer and Immigrant poetics at the center of the overlapping circles. This reading is a small act of resistance and dreaming to join countless other acts of resistance and dreaming as we walk with the ANCESTORS at our backs and the YOUNG running before us towards the world we want/need/desire/deserve.
Witness and Experience: Luso/Latinx Poets Voicing Brick City Life (Reading)
In this panel/reading, poets share experiences with targeted gentrification and speak to those in other communities who struggle with similar issues of gentrification, race, and community engagement, responding to them via the art and culture of their communities. Historically misunderstood and labeled a “dangerous” city, Newark, NJ, has produced some of the country’s most outspoken writers for civil and human rights, including Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Queen Latifah, and Cory Booker. “Brick City” is one of the oldest and most populated cities in the country, a home for myriad cultures including those of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain), the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Known for the many carpetbaggers that feed its conflicted climate, Brick City has become a microcosm of the American contest between established communities and gentrification. However these struggles have made the city a sacred ground for its residents. Currently, Newark is breeding a sense of community, a renaissance of contemporary poets and artists who defend and protect the culturally fertile and inspiring intersectionality, resistance, and lived experience of their great city. The work of these six Luso/Latinx writers who voice experiences of identity, race, LGBTQ activism, language, and more has never been more necessary.
11 am - 12:30 pm
BE YOU/DO YOU: Rejoin; Rejoice (Reading)
How do you keep the faith in times when the moral arc of history is bending backwards? Be you. Do you. Let your art proclaim your truth. Let your refusal to be silenced, or to be separated from each other, be an act of resistance. This Kattywompus Press Across the Arts in-gathering weaves together spoken word and literary poetry from Poets of Color and LGBTQ poets, with wide awake Americana-folk songs. Join us to celebrate the shared compassion, humanity, and hunger for justice that unites us in fierce and joyful art/struggle. Poets and music at the mic will bookend audience Q&A in which our features commiserate on Art as Survival and Revival. Curtis Crisler (poet); The Cornelius Eady Trio (poet, musicians); Van G. Garrett (poet); Christine Howey (poet, spoken word artist); Frank Mundo (poet, spoken word artist); Deborah Schwartz (poet); Rose M. Smith (poet, spoken word artist). Presented by Sammy Greenspan (publisher, Kattywompus Press).
Enlarging Poetics: Writing the Fat Body (Reading)
Scholar Kathleen Lebesco argues that fat is “neither simply an aesthetic state nor a medical condition” but a subversive “political situation.” Poets with diverse aesthetics and body histories will perform poems that investigate the public and personal stakes of embodied fat poetics and politics. The poets and their poems will complicate and re-imagine the supposedly neutral body (thin white able-bodied cis-male) that many contemporary poetics assume in order to make room for bodies that are “out of bounds.” As body positivity and fat activisms have become mainstream, so too have creative and critical thinking about the risks and rewards of being publicly fat. However, there has yet to be a major conversation on fat poetries and poetics. This session will pose and attempt to answer questions such as: What is the connection between a poet’s body of work and a poet’s physical body? What are the intersections of fat, desirability, and social justice? Can we even write the fat body without re-imagining what our poetics look like?
Holding Space Beyond the Page: Black Women Writers on Solidarity (Panel)
The publish-or-perish world of literature creates a competitive atmosphere for all writers, but particularly for black women writers, who face under-publishing along both racial and gender lines. The need to succeed in an arena in which only limited space is allotted for black women can create divisiveness by: (1) undervaluing (and often undercompensating) the work of the entire group; (2) silencing our narratives via underpublishing (or only publishing a select few); and (3) dismissing our concerns about these issues when we raise them. In response, several multi-genre writers discuss the nuances of creating art in a culture that either ignores or misattributes our work and often reframes our narratives. Indeed, two separate but related phenomena—the presumed suicides of women like Sheila Abdus-Salaam and the appropriation of black women’s art (including the unauthorized use of Gelila Mesfin’s digital portrait of Michelle Obama)—illustrate how, in nearly every aspect of our lives, black women are erased by others. We will also discuss how solidarity among black women writers offers collaborative opportunities and works to dismantle the power structures that make our erasure possible.
Poet’s Forum: How Political Engagement Affects the Writing Process
Four festival-featured poets will each read a poem or excerpt of theirs from the Split This Rock portfolio of the current issue of POETRY magazine and discuss the considerations they brought as writers and politically engaged citizens to the composing. Facilitators will then invite everyone to join a discussion both about the texts and about how writers’ political engagement affects our writing process. What is at stake for us when we write as “political poets”? In a gathering focused for the most part on the finished poem, this session will bring attention to the process by which the poem is created by making featured poets available as working artists to festival participants.
Reciting Poetry in Minefields: Co-translating Young Iraqi Poets (Reading)
A reading presented in Arabic and English, coupled with a live translation demonstration. Modern Iraqi poetry bears witness to injustices and provokes us all to heed the cries of those who fight to change their society through the art of poetry. In the case of Kadhem Khanjar, that can mean reciting poetry in a field of unexploded mines. In this reading and workshop, the translation team of Abbas Kadhim and David Allen Sullivan read from their book of poems by Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh (Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet), share their current work co-translating young Iraqi poets, and then proceed to co-translate a series of poems while inviting audience input. Participants will gain experience with translation, an increased familiarity with contemporary Iraqi poetry, and a chance to create solidarity with Iraqi poets who witness and resist the injustices committed in their country.
Resistance & Reclamation: Creating Effective Social Justice Community Art Collaborations (Workshop)
The death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police sparked anger, protest, and violence in Baltimore during April 2015. Baltimore youth lost control of how they wanted to be defined and regarded as the media implicated them in the crime and destruction, whether they committed it or not. The overriding narrative was pejorative and full of scorn. To address this, the presenters created BMORE Than The Story, a collaboration between students at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts High School (AFSIVA) and graphic design seniors at the University of Maryland College Park (UMD). Students worked together to create an exhibition that addressed police brutality, disenfranchisement, structural racism, stereotyping, violence, and the one-sided media portrayal during the uprising. The project leverages art and design as a means for students to regain their narrative and imagine how their artistic talents might create positive change in their community. Using the BMORE collaboration as a case study, this interactive workshop will engage participants in identifying and discussing some common pitfalls of community collaboration as well as ways of avoiding, mitigating, and addressing them. We will address strategies for funding, communication, community building, logistics, privilege, and assessment.
When I Enter: Black Queer Femme Sex, Resistance, and Survival (Reading)
State and domestic violence against Black queer femmes is a constant, ignored truth of American life. We negotiate a world where neither home nor the streets are safe. The narratives of Bresha Meadows, CeCe McDonald, Charleena Lyles, and GiGi Thomas speak to how Black femmes are killed, persecuted, and/or scrutinized when we defend our own lives against patriarchy coming from within and outside the home. Despite these truths, our histories are met with a enraging silence—almost never recorded or named, unless we ourselves do the work. This discussion and reading is a call to action, exploring how Black queer femmes from across the country are fighting to trouble patriarchal narratives on state and domestic violence, and what kind of world we are fighting for.
Youth-Led Writing Workshop for All (Workshop)
Members of Split This Rock's Ushindi Performance Tribe will lead a workshop based on the principles and methodologies of Split This Rock's summer program, The James Baldwin Institute: Poetry & Social Justice. Participants will pick from a list of social justice topics to focus on. After reviewing information on the chosen topic, participants will create several writing prompts, write, and then share their new work. This workshop is also intended to teach a method of workshop facilitation that taps into participants’ vast experiential knowledge, while creating a social-justice, poetry-based curriculum.
1:30 - 3 pm
Carved from the Rock: WOC Poets on Expanding Sanctuary (Reading)
Audre Lorde defined poetry as the “quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change.” Within this framework of poetry as an instigator of more humane and just ways of living together, we offer a reading on the theme of sanctuary in the aftermath Trump’s election and the rise of white nationalism in American political life. We believe that sanctuary as a movement must also centralize the Black lives that have been at the frontlines of state violence and at the leadership of pivotal struggles to transform structural conditions for oppressed communities in the U.S. and beyond. As part of this broader effort, four activist poets will present original work on the intersections of personal and collective histories of colonialism, displacement, slavery, patriarchy, racism, and war. What would sanctuary look like for women of color who come from diverse backgrounds and face different urgencies, yet are invested in each other’s safety and self-determination? What kind of empathy and vision for justice can we offer each other through poetry that, as Lorde put it, is “carved from the rock experiences" of our lives?
Invisible Poets: Literary Activists as Writers (Reading)
The organizations that keep poetry alive are often the products of the hard work of writers. Once they are in their positions as administrators and program directors, their own writing takes a back seat to their profile as leaders. Very often the people who build organizations like CantoMundo, VONA, Split This Rock, and Kundiman are seen as administrators first and writers second. This panel points to four directors of instrumental literary organizations and shines a light on their work as writers.
The Living Text: Bodies on the Line (Panel)
This interactive panel will ignite performance and poetics as a live community resistance ritual. In an era when linguistic forms of racist, transphobic, xenophobic violence threaten many communities—when language itself is threatened to a point of absurdity—embodying our individual and collective texts is more vital than ever. This convergence of poets will explore the urgencies we feel and enact in performing our texts as a live form. As writers with bodies on the line due to gender variance, racial and cultural “otherness,” and not-so-general freakdom, we step into our texts as mixed-media, trans-genre acts of cultural aliveness. Micro-performances by each poet will create a space of spectacle, witness, and ritual —and set the stage for a living text collaboration. Through an inventive, immersive process using an assemblage of techniques and prompts, the audience will be invited to turn text into a live form. From a discussion of strategies, a clear yet experimental structure will allow us to co-create a poetic score in response to timely cultural questions and urgencies. No performance experience necessary, just irreverent, sacred, brave, playful, and/or rigorously honest poetic willingness required!
Poets at the Borderlands of Change: Celebrating Gloria Anzaldúa (Reading)
On the 75th anniversary of the birth of visionary Xicana/Mestiza poet and theorist Gloria Anzaldúa and in celebration of her iconic work Borderlands/La Frontera and This Bridge Called My Back, award-winning poets ire’ne lara silva and Dan Vera assembled the work of 54 writers to reflect on the complex terrain—the deeply felt psychic, social, and geopolitical borderlands—that Anzaldúa inhabited, theorized, explored, and invented. Named for the Nahuatl word meaning “their soul,” Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands presents work that is sparked from the soul: the individual soul, the communal soul. This anthology reading is one of resilience, hope, and transformation in a time of increasing peril for border-crossers of all kinds who inhabit the intersections of multiple identities, cultures, and experiences. In this reading, poets interrogate, complicate, and personalize the borderlands in transgressive and transformative ways, opening new paths and revisioning old ones for the next generation of spiritual, political, and cultural border-crossers.
Swamps + Sweetgums: Poetics of Marronage (Workshop)
In this writing, movement, and memory workshop, we'll explore our existence in a time where sacred Indigenous lands are being seized in the name of money and oil, Black folks are dying at disproportionately high rates at the hands of the state, folks of color are being pushed out of their own communities, and immigrants of color are increasingly unable to legally and freely travel the world. What does it mean to fight, fly, and flee through words in the name of our ancestors—the marooned and the displaced—to eco-spiritual sites of refuge? As poets navigating and seeking freedom from oppressive systems, how do we (continue to) co-create sanctuaries of safety, survival, and sovereignty while upholding our own socio-eco-political responsibilities? How can we queer and darken language in ways that not only rise up and resist, but also are grounded in a return to our ancestral (heart)lands and in our individual, collective, and cosmic existence? At once a literary witnessing, conjuring, and clarion call, we will draw from our inner reservoir and each other in order to help (un)earth our best (literary) work through ancestral recollection, identity-based creative movement, and eco-spiritual engagement with talismans, symbols, and text.
Walls Won't Divide Us: Resisting Trump by Exploring Baltimore Murals (Panel)
Mural art is a way of expressing or reflecting life, and also a means to resisting reductive stereotypes and unifying people. Four Baltimore poets have written poems inspired by their city’s urban murals. When Trump talks of building a wall, these four poets think about Baltimore walls and the unifying artwork on them. Recent tragic incidents, including the murder of Freddie Gray, have been commemorated by these huge art images on local buildings for all to witness. Whether created against the law or commissioned by coffee shops or restaurants, street art begins a dialogue and can be an effective means of communication in neighborhoods. These poets ask: Instead of succumbing to the ridiculous notion that America needs more borders, why not embrace the ways in which walls might bring us together? How can we use this art we drive or walk by every day as inspiration? Rather than being defined by ideas used to separate us, we are interested in walls that create community. These diverse poets will read poems generated from examining these murals, address these questions, and discuss how we can continue to resist the current divisive political regime together.
Writing from Where We Are: Race, Queerness, and Bearing Witness (Workshop)
In our current political moment, as queer communities grapple with how to center the experience of queer and trans women and people of color and as the segregation in our community is more apparent than ever, we see these issues appear in queer writing, too. This workshop asks participants to practice writing about injustice in the world ethically, from their social locations with respect to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Exploring the cost of white supremacy to both white people and people of color, we will examine events such as Pride or the Pulse shooting, consider our multiple identities, and practice writing from who and where we stand. We offer this workshop as a space for writers to grapple with the ethics of bearing witness to our own or another’s experience while acknowledging where we are located with identity, power, and racism/white supremacy culture. What is the role of identity and power in writing poems about powerful public experiences? What does it mean to find your voice? What is our responsibility to each other? What are we trying to do with poetry?
Youth Open Mic
4:15 - 5:45 pm
FEATURED READING & BOOK SIGNING
Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Terisa Siagatonu
National Housing Center Auditorium
ASL interpretation provided.
Reading followed by a book signing. Books will be available for sale by Split This Rock partner Busboys & Poets Books.
7:30 – 9 pm
FEATURED READING & BOOK SIGNING
Ilya Kaminsky, Sonia Sanchez, Paul Tran
National Housing Center Auditorium
ASL interpretation provided.
Reading followed by a book signing. Books will be available for sale by Split This Rock partner Busboys & Poets Books.
10:30 pm – 1:30 am
Open to the public. Free to festival registrants; $10 for all others.