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Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism

Logo that says Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism

About the Award & Ceremony

The award, made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Our hope is that the prize, like our biennial poetry festival, will become an essential, enduring part of our mission to promote the growing field of art and social activism on a national level. Also like the festival, the Freedom Plow Award is presented every other year.

Recipients receive $3,000 and a beautifully designed award, as well as extensive attention to their work. We will celebrate the winner and finalists of the Freedom Plow Award and their achievements at a gala ceremony and reading at the Arts Club of Washington, D. C. at 6:30 pm on the evening of April 21, 2017.

This year's panel of judges for the award include Holly Bass, Dawn Lundy Martin, Mark Nowak.

We welcome nominations for the 2017 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism.
Deadline to submit: December 18

In keeping with Split This Rock's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in poetry, we are open to a wide range of poetic approaches and writing/performance styles; accordingly, you may nominate collaborative poetry projects or poetry collectives in addition to individual poets. Our criteria for what constitutes activism are equally generous, and we encourage nominators to think creatively when considering activist causes and practices. We ask that you nominate no more than three separate poets or poetry collectives for the award; we are also open to self-nominations.

Nominations are now being accepted until midnight EST on Sunday, December 18 via Submittable. Please note nominees will be judged solely on their qualifications for the award and not based on the number of nominations received. More details about the award and nominations below.

NOMINATION ACCESSIBILITY: If Submittable is not accessible to you, contact us at


Previous Recipients & Projects

Black and white image of Eliza Griswold. A white woman with a slight smile and slightly curled hair stands looking directly toward camera. She stands in front of a parking lot

The inaugural award was presented in 2013 to Eliza Griswold for her work gathering, translating, and publishing the folk poems of Afghan women, who  often write despite great risks to their personal safety. The inaugural ceremony also honored the four finalists: Jorge Agueta, poet and Director of Talleres de Poesia; Elana Bell, poet and educator with Seeds for Peace and Poets in Unexpected Places; Tim Z. Hernandez, poet and creator of "All They Will Call You"; Wang Ping, poet and Director of Kinship of Rivers. Photos and the video slideshow from the 2013 ceremony can be viewed at Blog This Rock, along with a write up on the evening.


Black and white photo of Mark Nowak, a white man with a beard and black slightly square shaped glasses looks toward camera.

The 2015 award was presented to Mark Nowak for his work fostering the voices of workers and bringing the stories and voices of workers to the center of poetry and public life. The three finalists, Black Poets Speak Out/Mahogany L. Browne, Jonterri Gadson, Amanda Johnston; John Lee Clark; and Bob Holman, were also celebrated with a multimedia presentation during the ceremony. Reflections on the ceremony, with photos and video, are also available on our blog.


At Split This Rock we are thrilled to be able to honor those whose work combines activism and art. We hope that you can spend a few moments in the coming weeks to reflect upon the field, and to nominate a few of your peers who are performing the vital work that Langston Hughes describes in the lines that inspired the name of the award:

                   The plow plowed a new furrow
                   Across the field of history.
                   Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.

To offer a nomination, please visit our Submittable page

If Submittable is not accessible to you, contact us at



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