Skip to Content
Zoom:  A  A  A

Split This Rock 2010 Featured Poets

Below are short biographies of our featured poets.

Buy featured poets' books from Split This Rock's partner, Teaching for Change, and support progressive, independent, nonprofit booksellers.

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

Chris Abani's poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001). His prose includes Song For Night (Akashic, 2007), The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), GraceLand (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985). He is a Professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, and a Guggenheim Award. Library Journal says of Hands Washing Water, “Abani enters the wound with a boldness that avoids nothing. Highly recommended.”
Lillian Allen is an award-winning Canadian poet, fiction writer, playwright, and cultural strategist. As one of its lead originators, she has specialized in the writing and performing of dub poetry, a highly politicized form of poetry, which is sometimes set to music. Her recordings, "Revolutionary Tea Party" and "Conditions Critical," won Juno awards in 1986 and 1988 respectively. Her publications include Theorize This (2004), Psychic Unrest (Insomniac Press, 2000), Women Do This Every Day (Women’s Press, 1993), Nothing But A Hero (Well-versed, 1992). Her many recordings include Freedom & Dance, 1999, and Conditions Critical, 1988. Allen has also worked in film, both as a featured artist (“Revolution from de Beat,” 1995; Unnatural Causes, 1989; “Rhythm and Hardtimes,” 1987) and as co-producer and co-director of “Blak.. Wi Blakk…” (1994), a film on Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka. She was the instigator, co-producer, and host of WORDBEAT, CBC’s show on poetry and the spoken word. A past member of the Racial Equity Advisory of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Experts Advisory on the International Cultural Diversity Agenda, past executive member of the Sectoral Commission on Culture and Information of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Allen was named a Foremother of Canadian Poetry by the League of Canadian Poets in 1992.
Sinan Antoon was born in Iraq and moved to the US after the 1991 Gulf War. His poems, essays and translations have been widely published in Arabic and English (The Nation, Ploughshares, Bomb, World Literature Today, Banipal). His novel I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (City Lights) has been translated to five languages. The Baghdad Blues (poems) was published by Harbor Mountain Press. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s In the Presence of Absence is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in 2010. Antoon returned to Iraq in 2003 to co-direct the documentary film "About Baghdad," about the lives of Iraqis in a post-Saddam occupied Iraq. He served as senior editor of the Arab Studies Journal and currently serves as contributing editor for Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature and as a member of the editorial committee of the Middle East Report. He is assistant professor at New York University.
Francisco Aragón is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and editor of the award-winning The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). Among his limited edition chapbooks are, Tertulia, (BOOKlyn). He is also the editor of Canto Cosas, a book series out of Bilingual Press that publishes Latino poetry. His poems and translations have appeared in various anthologies and in print and web journals. He directs Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is a member of the Macondo Writing Workshop in San Antonio and serves on the boards of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and the Guild Complex—a community-based literary organization in Chicago. He resides in Arlington, VA and works out of the ILS' offices in Washington, DC.
Holly Bass is a writer and performer. Her most recent body of work explores the endless allure of booty—from the Venus Hottentot to video vixens. A Cave Canem fellow, her poems have appeared in Callaloo, nocturnes (re)view, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Role Call, and The Ringing Ear. Her work has been presented at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, the Whitney Museum, and the Experience Music Project in Seattle. She is the Cullen Poet-in-Residence for Busboy and Poets' 5th & K location in Washington, DC, where she coordinates open mic nights and writing workshops for the public. She has received grants from the DC Arts Commission and a 2008 Future Aesthetics grant from the Ford Foundation/Hip Hop Theater Festival.
Jan Beatty's new book, Red Sugar, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in Spring, 2008. Other books include Boneshaker and Mad River, winner of the 1994 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Ravenous, her limited edition chapbook won the 1995 State Street Prize. Beatty has worked as a welfare caseworker and an abortion counselor. She worked in maximum-security prisons and was a waitress for fifteen years. Her poetry has appeared in Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Court Green, and in anthologies published by Oxford University Press, University of Illinois Press, and University of Iowa Press. Awards include the $15,000 Creative Achievement Award in Literature from the Heinz Foundation and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. For the past fifteen years, she has hosted and produced Prosody, a public radio show on NPR-affiliate WYEP-FM featuring the work of national writers. Beatty directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the low-residency MFA program.
Brooklyn, NY, native Beny Blaq discovered he had an interest in poetry at the age of 13. Inspired by the art form of poetry and spoken word, which he calls the "greatest forum of expression," he decided to give his writing life. He has performed and featured nationally at open mic venues and community events and at more than 50 colleges and universities. Beny has conducted writing workshops in public schools, headlined in the play, "Prison Poetry," at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, and appeared on radio and TV outlets such as BET's Lyric Cafe, TV One and WHUR, as well as HBO’s hit series “The Wire.” He is the Poet-In-Residence at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington, Virginia.
Derrick Weston Brown holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University. He has participated in VONA and is a Cave Canem fellow. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ginosko, Mythium, The Columbia Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Drunken Boat, and MipOesia. In 2006 he released his first chapbook of poetry, The Unscene, and has recently completed a full-length manuscript, Wisdom Teeth. He teaches poetry at Hart Middle School in Washington, DC. He is the Poet-In-Residence at Busboys and Poets' 14th & V location in Washington, DC, and the bookstore, which is operated by the nonprofit Teaching For Change.
Martha Collins is the author of the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), which focuses on a lynching her father witnessed when he was a child; it won an Anisfield-Wolf Award and was chosen as one of “25 Books to Remember from 2006” by the New York Public Library. Collins has also published four collections of poems, two collections of co-translations of Vietnamese poetry, and two chapbooks of poems. Other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, and the Witter Bynner Foundation. Collins founded the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, and for ten years was Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College. She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.
Cornelius Eady's latest book of poems, Hardheaded Weather (Marian Wood/Putnam, 2008), was nominated for an 2008 NAACP Image Award. He is co-founder (with Toi Derricote) of Cave Canem, a national organization for African American poetry and poets, and Associate Professor of English at The University of Notre Dame. He is the author of six other books of poetry. His Victims of the Latest Dance Craze won the 1985 Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and his The Gathering of My Name was nominated for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. Additional honors include the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, a 2002 Oppenheimer Award for the best first play by an American playwright, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame.
Martín Espada, called “the Latino poet of his generation” and “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors,” has published sixteen books in all as a poet, editor, essayist and translator, including two collections of poems last year: Crucifixion in the Plaza de Armas (Smokestack, 2008), released in England, and La Tumba de Buenaventura Roig (Terranova, 2008), a bilingual edition published in Puerto Rico. The Republic of Poetry, a collection of poems published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Another collection, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A former tenant lawyer, Espada is now a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches creative writing and the work of Pablo Neruda.
Andrea Gibson, a powerful live performer, was the winner of the 2008 Women of The World Poetry Slam (Detroit), and has placed 3rd in the world for the last three years by the iWPS. She won a DIY Poetry Book of the Year and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her first book, Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns. She has been showcased on Free Speech TV, the documentary Slam Planet, NPR, Air America, and Independent Radio Stations nationwide. She has recorded four full-length albums of poetry, the most recently, Yellowbird, in which her poetry is accompanied by piano, global drums, dobro, violin, and music by Kim Taylor, Chris Pureka, and Devotchka. The Denver Westword has said, “If slamming were professional boxing, Andrea Gibson would be the light weight you don’t think much of until she’s knocked you flat on your ass.” 
Allison Hedge Coke holds the Distinguished Paul W. Reynolds and Clarice Kingston Reynolds Endowed Chair of Poetry and Writing at the University of Nebraska, Kearney, and directs the Reynolds Reading Series & Honoring the Sandhill Crane Migration Literary Tribute Retreat. Her five authored books include: the American Book Award winning volume Dog Road Woman and the Wordcraft Writer of the Year for Poetry volume Off-Season City Pipe, both from Coffee House Press; Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer, an AIROS Book-of-the-Month memoir from the University of Nebraska Press; and Wordcraft's Writer of the Year for Poetry in 2007, Blood Run, a verse-play from Salt Publications. Hedge Coke has edited seven additional collections. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories.
Natalie E. Illum is an activist, writer and federal employee. Natalie is a founding board member of mothertongue and promotes queer and marginalized writers, musicians, and artists through 3Word Productions. She also facilitates poetry and activism workshops in a variety of community venues. Natalie's chapbooks Counterbalance and On Writers Block and Acrobats are available on Lulu Press. Her work is included in Growing Up Girl (GirlChild Press, 2006), Word Warriors: 35 Leaders of the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007), an anthology edited by Alix Olson, and Women of the World Poetry Slam Anthology. Her poetry was selected by Minnie Bruce Pratt for Feminist Studies. In May 2007, Natalie collaborated with LAVA, an acrobatic troupe in Brooklyn, and perfected her skills at performing poetry upside down. Natalie is in the process of adapting her unpublished memoir, Spastic, to the stage with the help of renowned performance poet and director Regie Cabico. She is currently ranked 25th at the Women of the Worlds Poetry slam. 
Fady Joudah's The Earth in the Attic won the Yale Series for Younger Poets in 2007. Contest judge Louise Glück describes the poet in her foreword as, “that strange animal, the lyric poet in whom circumstance and profession ... have compelled obsession with large social contexts and grave national dilemmas.” He won the 2008 Saif Ghobash – Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of poetry by Mahmoud Darwish collected in The Butterfly’s Burden, published in a bilingual edition by Bloodaxe Books in the UK and by Copper Canyon Press in the US. The US edition was short-listed for PEN America’s poetry in translation award in 2009. He was a field member of Doctors Without Borders in 2002 and 2005. His new translation of Darwish's work is titled If I Were Another: Poems by Mahmoud Darwish (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009).
Toni Asante Lightfoot is a poet, teacher, performer, and activist. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she started hosting poetry readings in 1993 at Soul Brothers Pizza and moved to It's Your Mug in early 1994, where it hosted Saul Williams, Willie Perdomo, Miguel Algarin, The Darkroom Collective from Boston, Rhoma Spencer of Trinidad & Tobago and some of the best poets in DC. She is living in exile in Chicago, Illinois. She first left DC in 2000 to be artistic director of The Haven, an artistic retreat and bed & breakfast in Trinidad & Tobago. From there she joined the Blackout Arts Collective of Boston and became their artistic director in 2002. After realizing Boston what not her cup of tea, she packed up a truck and headed west to the Third Coast. Chicago has been a home sometimes cold, sometimes hot, but full of opportunism. Lightfoot is now the Director of TEACH Program at Young Chicago Authors. Her life is filled with a new understanding of language since being married to Setondji from The Republic of Benin and becoming a mother to the lovely Leontyn. 
Richard McCann is the author, most recently, of Mother of Sorrows, an award-winning collection of linked stories that Michael Cunningham has described as "almost unbearably beautiful." He is also the author of Ghost Letters, a collection of poems, and editor (with Michael Klein) of Things Shaped in Passing: More 'Poets for Life' Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. His work has appeared in such magazines as The Atlantic, Ms., Esquire, and Tin House, and in numerous anthologies, including The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 and Best American Essays 2000. For his work, he has received awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. A professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University, McCann serves on the Board of Directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and is a Member of the Corporation of Yaddo.
Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Endarkenment (University of Pittsburgh Press). His work has appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1994, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He has won several awards, including an NEA Fellowship. He teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Jeffrey lived and wrote in Washington DC throughout the 1990s, working for DC WritersCorps and co-hosting a mainstage poetry series at the Black Cat called Blabbermouth Night. He studied at George Mason University, where he edited Phoebe and was active in Poetry Theater. He represented DC at the National Poetry Slam from 1993 to 1995.
Lenelle Moïse, hailed “a masterful performer” by, is an award-winning "culturally hyphenated pomosexual" poet, playwright and performance artist. She creates jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized texts about Haitian-American identity and the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, spirituality and resistance. In addition to featured performances in venues as diverse as the Louisiana Superdome, the United Nations General Assembly Hall and a number of theatres, bookstores, cafes and activist conferences, Lenelle regularly performs her acclaimed autobiographical one-woman show WOMB-WORDS, THIRSTING at colleges across the United States. Curve Magazine calls her debut spoken-word CD Madivinez "piercing...covering territory both intimate and political...vivid and powerful." She shares a bed in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Nancy Morejón, one of the foremost Cuban writers and intellectuals, has published more than twelve collections of poetry, three monographs, a dramatic work, and four critical studies of Cuban history and literature. Her lyrical verse, shaped by an Afro-Cuban sensibility and a feminist consciousness, evokes the intimacy of family, the ephemerality of love, and the significance of Cuban history. Her poems have appeared in several bilingual editions in the United States, including Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing (The Black Scholar Press) and Looking Within-Mirar adentro (Wayne State University Press). She has translated numerous acclaimed French authors including Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Éluard, and Aimé Césaire, and her books of criticism of the work of Nicolas Guillén are considered classics.
Mark Nowak is the author of Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) and Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004). For the past several years he has been designing and facilitating “poetry dialogues” with Ford autoworkers in the United States and South Africa (through the UAW and NUMSA), striking clerical workers (through AFSCME 3800), Muslim/Somali nurses and healthcare workers (through Rufaidah), and others. Nowak’s writings on new labor poetics have recently appeared in Goth: Undead Subculture (Duke, 2007), American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan, 2007), The Progressive, and elsewhere. A native of Buffalo, New York, he now directs the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. 
Wang Ping was born in China and came to USA in 1985. Her publications include American Visa (short stories, 1994), Foreign Devil (novel, 1996), Of Flesh and Spirit (poetry, 1998), The Magic Whip (poetry, 2003), The Last Communist Virgin (stories, 2007), all from Coffee House Press. New Generation: Poetry from China Today (1999), an anthology she edited and co-translated, is published by Hanging Loose. Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000, University of Minnesota Press) won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities. In 2002, Random House published its paperback. She had two solo photography and multi-media exhibitions--“Behind the Gate: After the Flooding of the Three Gorges” at Janet Fine Art Gallery, Macalester College, 2007, and “All Roads to Lhasa” at Banfill-Lock Cultural Center, 2008. She is the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Artist Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and the McKnight Artist Fellowship. She is associate professor of English at Macalester College.
Patricia Smith is the author of five books of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, chronicling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, a choice for Library Journal's Best Poetry Books of 2008, and one of NPR's top five books of 2008; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection, winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award and’s Best Poetry Book of 2006. She also authored the ground-breaking history Africans in America and the award-winning children’s book Janna and the Kings. She is a professor at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island, and is on the faculty of both Cave Canem and the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. Patricia wowed audiences at Split This Rock’s inaugural festival in 2008.
Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including The Ginkgo Light (2009), Quipu (2005), The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (2001), and The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (1998), all from Copper Canyon Press. He is also the editor of Chinese Writers on Writing (forthcoming from Trinity University Press in 2010). His poems have been translated into Albanian, Bosnian, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish. He is the recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships, a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship, three grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and a Western States Book Award for Translation. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he served, from 2006 to 2008 as the city’s first poet laureate.
Quincy Troupe is an award-winning poet and author. He has written 18 books that include poetry, children’s books, and non-fiction works. His books of poetry include The Architecture of Language (Coffee House Press, 2006); Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2002); Choruses; Avalanche; Weather Reports: New and Selected Poems; Skulls along the River; Snake-Back Solos: Selected Poems 1969-1977, which received an American Book Award; and Embryo Poems, 1967-1971. He has written two best-selling biographies: Miles: The Autobiography, Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe (Simon & Schuster 1989), and The Pursuit of Happyness (HarperCollins/Amistad 2005). He has written the screenplay for Miles and Me: A Memoir (University of California Press 2000), which is scheduled for production in 2009.
Bruce Weigl is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, most recently Declension in the Village of Chung Luong (Ausable Press, 2006), The Unraveling Strangeness (Grove/Atlantic, 2002), After the Others (TriQuarterly Books, 1999), Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems (Grove/Atlantic, 1999), and Sweet Lorain (TriQuarterly Books, 1996), and the editor or co-editor of three collections of critical essays and an anthology. He co-translated Poems From Captured Documents with Nguyen Thanh; other works of translation include Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from the Wars, 1948-1993, co-edited and co-translated with Nguyen Ba Chung and Kevin Bowen. In the spring of 2000 Grove/Atlantic published his memoir, The Circle of Hanh. Weigl has been awarded a Patterson Poetry Prize, the Pushcart Prize twice, and a prize from the Academy of American Poets, among many awards and nominations. Weigl is past president of the Associated Writing Programs, and he is currently Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities at the Lorain County Community College.