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Split This Rock 2008 Featured Poets

Below are short biographies of our featured poets.

To learn more about how we select featured poets, click here.

Chris August has been a member of four national poetry slam teams, including thetenth place 2005 DC/Baltimore team, and was ranked seventh in the world at the 2005 Individual World Poetry Slam. He is a co-host of Slamicide!, Baltimore’s nationally certified poetry slam, and his performances have been released in audio and video form. He performs widely throughout the country, most recently at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, born in New Mexico of Chicano and Apache descent, was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison at the age of twenty-one; there he learned to read and write and found his passion for poetry. Baca’s many books include The Importance of a Piece of Paper (Grove/Atlantic), Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande (New Directions), A Place to Stand, Healing Earthquakes, Black Mesa Poems, and Immigrants in Our Own Land. He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, the National Poetry Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award, and, for his memoir A Place To Stand, the prestigious International Award.
Dennis Brutus is a South African poet who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and 1,000 others. He is the author of 12 books of poetry, including Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader and Still the Sirens. He is Honorary Professor at the Centre for Civil Society, University of Kwazulu-Natal, in Durban, South Africa and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. Brutus was the recipient of the Langston Hughes Award in 1987 (the first non-African American to receive that award), and the first Paul Robeson Award in 1989 for "artistic excellence, political consciousness and integrity".
Princess of Controversy is an actress, rapper, singer, poet, public speaker and activist. She is an organizer for Critical Resistance, an organization that provides community alternatives to incarceration; a volunteer teacher for the Latin American Youth Center Upward Bound Program and the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project; a member of Blackout Arts Collective, a collective of artists that use art as a mechanism for activism, especially for outreach with youth; and a member of DC Guerilla Poets Insurgency, an informal cultural collective of artists, activists and organizations seeking to expose the political propaganda of today’s society.
Kenneth Carroll is a native Washingtonian. He is the author of a book of poems, So What! For the White Dude Who Said This Ain't Poetry (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press, 1997). Carroll is Director of DC WritersCorps, an arts and social service program founded by the NEA and AmeriCorps that was honored in 1999 by the national Coming Up Taller Awards. He is the past president of the African American Writers Guild, served on the board of directors of the Poetry Committee of Greater Washington, and was a founding member of the 8Rock Writers Collective.
Grace Cavalieri is the author of several books, and produced plays. She’s produced “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress on public radio, ( now in its 31st year.) Among honors, Grace holds playwriting awards, the Allen Ginsberg Award for Poetry, A Paterson Prize for Poetry, the Pen-Syndicated Fiction Award, the Bordighera Poetry Award, the Folger’s inaugural “Columbia Award,” and CPB’s Silver Medal. Her book What I Would do For Love (Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797) is the basis for her new play, “Hyena in Petticoats.”  Among production awards, the play “Quilting the Sun” was awarded the key to the city of Greenville (2007.) She is the Book Review Editor for The Montserrat Review, and a poetry columnist for MiPOradio. Her new book of poems is ANNA NICOLE (2008, A Menendez Publication). 
Lucille Clifton’s many books of poetry include Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (BOA Editions, 2000), which won the National Book Award; The Terrible Stories (1995), nominated for the National Book Award; and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 (1987), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her honors include a Lannan Literary Award and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. She has served as Poet Laureate for the State of Maryland and is currently Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary's College.
Joel Dias Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was the 1998 and 1999 National Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Antioch Review, and the anthologies Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn, which he also edited. In 1995, he received the Furious Flower "Emerging Poet Award" from James Madison University. He has performed on the Today Show, in a commercial for Legal Jeans, in the documentaries Voices Against Violence and SlamNation, on BET's Teen Summit and By the Book, and in the feature film Slam.
Mark Doty, the only American poet to have won Great Britain's T. S. Eliot Prize, is the author of six books of poems, including My Alexandria (1993), which received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also published Atlantis (1995), Sweet Machine (1998) and Source (2001), and School of the Arts (2005), as well as the memoirs Heaven's Coast (1996) and Firebird (1999). Among his many other awards are two NEA fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Bynner Prize. Doty teaches in the graduate program the University of Houston, and is a frequent guest at Columbia University, Hunter College, and NYU. He lives in Houston and in New York City.
Martín Espada has published a dozen books in all as a poet, essayist, editor and translator. His eighth collection of poems, The Republic of Poetry, was published by Norton in October, 2006. His last book, Alabanza: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2002 (Norton, 2003), received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was named an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year.  An earlier collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Robert Creeley Award, the Antonia Pantoja Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and two NEA Fellowships. Espada is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda.
Known as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of four books of poetry. Her first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award from the Yale University Press. Her second book, The Country Between Us (Harper and Row, 1982), received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993, and in 1994, her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins, Publishers), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Forché has held three NEA fellowships, and a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. Forché teaches at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.
Brian Gilmore is a poet, writer, and public interest lawyer who currently teaches in the Clinical Law Program at the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.  He is the author of two collections of poetry, elvis presley is alive and well and living in harlem (Third World Press of Chicago, 1993) and Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags: Poem for Duke Ellington (Karibu Books, 2000).  Gilmore has been widely published in poetry anthologies and journals, and he is a regular columnist with the Progressive Media Project and a regular contributor to The Progressive Magazine. His poetry, essays, reviews, and other writings have appeared in The Washington Review, The Apple Valley Review, The Red Brick Review, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer, The Buffalo News, The Rochester Democrat, The Nation, The Utne Reader, Jazz Times, Jazz and Blues, American Songwriter Magazine, and many other national and local publications.  Born and raised in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School, he currently resides in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his family.
Sam Hamill is the author of fifteen volumes of original poetry, including Measured by Stone (Curbstone Press, 2007), and Almost Paradise: Selected Poems & Translations (Shambhala, 2005), and four volumes of essays including Avocations: On Poetry and Poets (Red Hen Press, 2007) and A Poet's Work (Carnegie-Mellon University Press). He has translated extensively from classical Chinese and Japanese and has been the recipient of many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, the Stanley Lindberg Lifetime Achievement Award for Editing, and the Washington Poets Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He is Founding Editor of Copper Canyon Press and was Editor there from 1972 through 2004. In 2003 he founded Poets Against War, compiling the largest single-theme anthology in history, and editing a best-selling selection, Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003).
Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927. His volumes of poetry include A New Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), a finalist for the National Book Award; Imperfect Thirst (1996); When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone (1990); Selected Poems (1980), for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980); The Book of Nightmares (1971); Body Rags (1968); Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock (1964); and What a Kingdom It Was (1960). He has also published translations of works by Yves Bonnefroy, Yvanne Goll, and François Villon, and, this year, Rainer Maria Rilke. Kinnell divides his time between Vermont and New York City, where he is the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. He is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.
Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Only Bread, Only Light, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, and of the memoirs Planet of the Blind and Eavesdropping. He holds a dual appointment at the University of Iowa in English where he teaches courses in creative nonfiction and serves as a public humanities scholar in the U of Iowa’s College of Medicine. He speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy. His essays and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry, and Partisan Review. He is currently working on a collection of prose poems for Copper Canyon Press entitled Mornings With Borges as well as a collection of political poems about disability.
Semezdin Mehmedinovic was born in Tuzla, Bosnia in 1960 and is the author of four books, including Sarajevo Blues, composed of stories and poems written during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Published in 1992 in Ljubljana, the book was the first in the Biblioteka egzilabc series, which provided a forum for Bosnian writers and translators under siege or living in exile. In 1993 he co-wrote and co-directed “Mizaldo,” one of the first Bosnian films shot during the war. The film won the first prize at the Mediterranean Festival in Rome the following year. He, his wife, and their child left Bosnia and came to the U.S. as political refugees in 1996.
Ethelbert Miller is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently How We Sleep On The Nights We Don't Make Love (Curbstone Press, 2004). His memoir, Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (St. Martin's Press, 2000), was featured in the DC WE READ program. He is the editor of several anthologies, including Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century (Black Classic Press, 2002) and In Search of Color Everywhere (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1995). His awards include the Columbia Merit Award and the O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize. Miller is director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including You & Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), Fuel (1998), and Red Suitcase (1994). She has twice traveled to the Middle East and Asia for the United States Information Agency promoting international goodwill through the arts. Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall prize, and the International Poetry Forum. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals and reviews throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. Nye has also written books for children, and has edited several anthologies of prose.
Sharon Olds is the Erich Maria Remarque professor and a permanent faculty member in the Creative Writing Program at New York University (NYU). Her first book of poetry, Satan Says, received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award.  Her second book, The Dead and the Living, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.  She is also the author of The Gold Cell (1987), The Father (1992), The Wellspring (1996), Blood, Tin, Straw (1999) and The Unswept Room (2002).  Her latest collection is Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002 (2004).  She received a Lila Wallace-Readers’ Digest Grant in 1993, part of which was designated for the NYU workshop program at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island. In 1997, she received the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award. From 1998-2000 she was the New York State Poet Laureate.
Alix Olson is a performance poet and social activist. Her innumerable stage, broadcast, radio and print appearances include twice headlining HBO's “Def Poetry Jam” (Russell Simmons), and an inclusion in Utne Magazine's InRadio compilation. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a Barbara Deming grant, as well as being voted 2004 OutMusician of the Year (OutMusic). She has headlined international poetry festivals in Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Australia. She is the subject of “LEFT LANE - on the road with FOLK POET ALIX OLSON,” a film by Samantha Farinella.
Poet and Critic Alicia Suskin Ostriker's collection The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Her other books of poetry include The Crack in Everything (1996), a National Book Award finalist that won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. She has written several critical works, including Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (1986).
Ishle Yi Park is the Poet Laureate of Queens, New York. She has performed her unique blend of poetry & song across the United States, Cuba, New Zealand, Singapore, and Korea. Her first book, The Temperature of This Water, is the winner of three literary awards including the PEN America Beyond Margins Award for Outstanding Writers of Color. Her CD, Work is Love, includes tracks with Korean traditional drums, Spanish guitar, beatboxing, and music produced by Japan's critically acclaimed DJ Honda. Park has taught creative writing in high schools, colleges, prisons, and community centers across the country and has opened for artists such as KRS-One, Ben Harper, De La Soul, and Saul Williams.
Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Homegirls and Handgrenades (White Pine Press, 2007), Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (1999); Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998); and Does your house have lions? (1995), which was nominated for both the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award. Among the many honors she has received are the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999.
Patricia Smith, author, poet, teacher, performer, is the author of four books of poetry— Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press, 2006), a 2005 National Poetry Series selection, winner of the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize and finalist for the 2007 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Close to Death (1993), Big Towns, Big Talk (1992), and Life According to Motown (1991). In addition, she has authored the history "Africans In America" and the children's book Janna and the Kings. Her next book, Blood Dazzler, a book of poems chronicling the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina, will be published in 2008 by Coffee House. Smith's work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly and many other journals. She is a Pushcart Prize winner, a Cave Canem faculty member, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition's history.
Jeffrey Thomson’s fourth collection of poems, Birdwatching in Wartime, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2009. Also forthcoming is Many Ways to Dig a Tunnel, a collection of translations from the Spanish of Cuban poet Juan Carlos Flores and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great co-edited with Camille Dungy and Matt O’Donnell from Persea Books. An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington, he has a recent chapbook, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, from RopeWalk Press.
Susan Tichy is the author of Bone Pagoda, A Smell of Burning Starts the Day, and The Hands in Exile, a National Poetry Series volume. Her poems and mixed-genre works have appeared in the U.S. and Britain, and have been recognized by awards from the Eugene Kayden Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at George Mason University and also serves as Poetry Editor of Practice: New Writing + Art. When not teaching, she lives in a ghost town in the southern Colorado Rockies.
Of Russian/Czech/Siberian descent, Pamela Uschuk holds an M.F.A. from the University of Montana. She is the author of three books of poems, Finding Peaches in the Desert, One-Legged Dancer, and Scattered Risks. Her literary prizes include the Tucson/Pima Writing Award, the Struga International Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from The National League of American PEN Women, IRIS Poetry Prize (University of Virginia) and the ASCENT Award (University of Illinois). Her work has been translated into Albanian, Spanish, French, Swedish, German and Czech. She is Director of the Salem College Center for Women Writers.
Belle Waring is the author of two poetry collections: Refuge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), which won the Associated Writing Programs’ Award in 1989 and was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 1990; and Dark Blonde (Sarabande Books, 1997), which won the Larry Levis Prize in 1998. She has worked as a neonatal nurse in Washington, DC’s hospitals.