In an article for their June/July 2020 issue, Poets & Writers covers literary festivals hosting their events virutally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, literary organizations face a difficult reality regarding in-person festivals and conferences. Dozens of events previously scheduled for the summer of 2020, some years in the making, have been canceled or postponed—events that typically bring together hundreds and thousands of readers, writers, and literary enthusiasts," Thea Prieto writes.
"But as stay-at-home orders swept the United States this spring, many organizers felt a more pressing need for community connection than ever before and sprung into action, reimagining their events in new, online formats. The Split This Rock poetry festival, originally scheduled for March in Washington, D.C., quickly pivoted to offer a virtual social-change book fair and livestreamed readings throughout May and June."
The article goes on to reflect on other literary festivals moving or moved to virtual formats. Read the full article at Poets & Writers' website.
The Boston Globe featured Split This Rock's Virtual Poetry Reading on June 11, 2020, in an article about poet Cameron Awkward-Rich:
"Massachusetts-based poet, professor, and scholar Cameron Awkward-Rich would have been a featured poet at Split This Rock’s biennial festival this year. The event, originally set for late March, was canceled because of COVID-19. Keeping with the original theme of “Poems of Provocation & Witness,” the organization has planned a series of virtual poetry readings in lieu of the festival.
Awkward-Rich will perform a 15-minute set of spoken-word poetry on June 11 at 6 p.m, live streamed on the organization’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/splitthisrock. Poets Justice Ameer from Providence, Trevino L. Brings Plenty from Portland, Ore., and Kyle Dargan from Washington, D.C., will also read.
'All of us write into and around issues of race, justice, etc.,” said Awkward-Rich, an assistant professor of gender studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “In the midst of all the unfolding of both hopeful and troubling chaos, it will be a place for people to feel the feelings that all of that has brought up.'"
AWP recently featured Sarah Browning's piece about Split This Rock's 10th year anniversary:
"When a group of poet-activists based in Washington, DC, began dreaming of the first Split This Rock Poetry Festival more than ten years ago now, one of our mentors in the work—the dean of DC’s literary scene, E. Ethelbert Miller—told us, 'Pay attention to what you are doing. Keep notes and records. You are making history.'"
Daniel Baldwin of World Footprints covers DC's thriving poetry scene. The article spotlights Split This Rock's various programming, including the Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, Sunday Kind of Love, the 2019 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest, and more. Read the full article here.
The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities has added sweeping language to already approved grants requiring the artists and arts organizations avoid producing work that could be considered lewd, vulgar or political.
In a rare step made after millions of dollars in public funding was approved last month, the local arts commision said it would terminate any grant that supports work the commission deemed “lewd, lascivious, vulgar, overtly political, or excessively violent, constitutes sexual harassment, or is, in any other way, illegal.”
Art leaders expressed shock at the request, which several described as an attack on their artistic freedom.
“My first reaction was just astonishment,” said Sarah Browning, co-founder and executive director of Split This Rock, which was awarded $70,000 in two grants from the commission. Browning herself won a $3,500 grant for poetry. “It’s far outside the reach of anything that I’ve every seen,” Browning said. “To put it at risk is a huge problem for small organizations like ours. That said, we can’t possibly sign this.”
John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, interviewed Sarah Browning about her most recent poetry book, Killing Summer, and Split This Rock's work. Listen to the full interview on Patreon.com.
Hooligan Magazine recently reviewed Ghost Fishing: An Eco Justice Poetry Anthology, edited by Split This Rock co-founder Melissa Tuckey:
"This anthology took off in its ability to make both eco-justice and poetry feel accessible and relatable. At the forefront of this is the well sought out inclusion of diverse cultural and identity representations in the poets and their topics. Compiling a truly representational book of ecologically and socially aware poetry from a subject historically shadowed by cliché dead white men musing about flowers is no small feat. In doing so, editor Melissa Tuckey helped correct the cliché and successfully acknowledged readers who have felt their narratives on this topic were broadly unheard and unaccounted for up until this point."
Read the full review on Hooligan Magazine's website.
Ron Charles of the Washington Post writes about the National Endowement for the Arts' recent report, which announces that the share of adults reading poetry grew by 76 percent between 2012 and 2017.
Split This Rock's Executive Director and founder, Sarah Browning is quoted: “At long last, establishment American poetry is finally looking and sounding like America: people of color, queer people, people with disabilities and activist poets are telling about their own lives and struggles and joys. And because of the Internet and changes in publishing, they’re also taking control of the means of distribution.”
Read the full article on The Washington Post website.
The Minnesota Review's blog includes a review of “When I Kiss You, A Casket Opens” by beyza ozer, which was featured as part of Split This Rock's Poem of the Week series:
“When I Kiss You, A Casket Opens” begins its first line in the middle of a response that has no discernible ending— “this is not terrorism/this is toxic masculinity”— it is a reaction, a refusal, a riot against the mass media that twists its angles for the right endorsement and against the culture that twists itself so as not to recognize our culture’s own many failings.
Split This Rock's Director of Youth Programs tells PBS Newshour how young writers are leading a poetry comeback:
“Young people are taking the opportunity outside class to continue pursuing and reading and engaging poetry, whether it be in print or through YouTube videos,” Green said. “They want it and then they’re replicating it; they’re starting to write their own poems.”
Green and Split This Rock work directly with students and teachers in Washington, D.C. classrooms through after-school writing clubs and professional development programs — all aimed, in part, at promoting contemporary poetry curriculum in the classroom. Social justice is also a central mission for Split This Rock, focused on poetry as a tool for change. Green said it is easy for young people to engage with and share the art of poetry in today’s digital age, making it an ideal medium of self expression.
Read the full article on the PBS Newshour website.