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History & Core Values




Split This Rock was born in March 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and in the midst of an historic election year. That first Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness was a roaring success, bringing together hundreds of poets, activists, and dreamers from DC and around the nation for the first time. Its success and the very obvious need it addressed inspired us to create a permanent organization as a home for progressive poets.

Read about Split This Rock’s origins in DC Poets Against the War at the Beltway Poetry Quarterly's website in its Literary Organizations Issue.

We are poets who work in the community, in the academy, and both; well-known poets and poets just starting out. We are a diverse group in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, age, physical ability, sexual orientation, and social class. And we strive to represent the great stylistic diversity of American poetry today, presenting poetry of all styles on a single stage.

Core Values

  • Creativity and imagination—Split This Rock celebrates the power of the imagination to transform the individual and society.
  • Dissent and action for social justice—Split This Rock believes that language is a critical tool for resisting illegitimate power. We honor the poet’s role as innovator, visionary, truth teller, and restorer of language.
  • Artistic excellence—Split This Rock champions artistic innovation and excellence, featuring some of the most compelling writers in contemporary America and from abroad and sponsoring poetry contests for emerging writers. 
  • Diversity and inclusivity—Split This Rock celebrates and presents poets and poetry that represent the true diversity of our cultures and communities.
  • Duende—Split This Rock recognizes the potential imaginative power of fear and embraces poets and activists who grapple with difficult issues and take risks in their writing and public work. 
  • Literary history – Split This Rock honors our literary elders and forebears. We celebrate and promote the literary history of our Washington, DC home.
  • Youth—Split This Rock values the voices and vision of young people and provides them opportunities for growth while helping to amplify their voices. 
  • International community—Split This Rock recognizes that it is part of an international community of poets and engages in conversation and creative exchange with its counterparts around the world.
  • Accessibility—Split This Rock values individuals of all abilities and strives to make its programs and materials accessible to all.
  • Collaboration and shared leadership—Split This Rock is founded by a community of poets and volunteers who value the wisdom of shared leadership. 
  • Community building and education—Split This Rock recognizes that learning is a life-long process and provides workshops and opportunities for cross-fertilization as a central part of its mission.