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Program & Schedule: Saturday, March 13, 2010

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for four days of poetry, community building, and creative transformation. The festival features readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, parties, activism—opportunities to speak out for justice, build connection and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can act as an agent for social change.

The official bookseller of the festival is the Teaching for Change Bookstore at Busboys and Poets. Visit the store (at Busboys and Poets or online) to find progressive books to activate your mind and community. Run by Teaching for Change.

Wednesday, March 10 Thursday, March 11 Friday, March 12 Saturday, March 13

8:30 am-4 pm          REGISTRATION/CHECK-IN (Thurgood Marshall Center)


9:30 am-4 pm    SOCIAL CHANGE BOOK FAIR (Thurgood Marshall Center Gym - reserve a table)


In addition to readings, panels, workshops, and opportunities to build community across barriers this year, we also showcase the significant role of publishers and those who bring us the impassioned, visionary, and truth-telling writing that Split This Rock celebrates. We also want to bring the critically important work of social change groups to poets, activists, and the public.

With this in mind, we introduce a Social Change Book Fair to Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2010. The book fair is an opportunity to further our mission of getting the critical work of socially engaged poets, writers, organizations, progressive presses, literary magazines, and independent newspapers to festival participants.


  • Collective to Open a Radical Space in DC
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Institute for Policy Studies
  • Herb Lowrey
  • MARIPOSA Press
  • Plan B Press
  • Scribbles to Scribes Publishing
  • The Spark
  • Street Sense
  • Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore
  • Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature
  • Uncommon Sense LLC
  • University of Arizona Press
  • University of Southern Maine/Stonecoast MFA Program
  • Voices UnBroken

... and more!


9:30-11 a.m.   PANELS & WORKSHOPS 

Black LGBTQ Writing as Agents of Change
(Jericho Brown, Cheryl Clarke, Reginald Harris, John Keene, and Lenelle Moïse)
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room

Panelists will discuss how writers of the past helped to reflect and forge the black gay and lesbian community through their writing and outspoken activism, and ask how current authors are continuing the tradition of these trailblazers. We will also engage the audience in a dialogue around issues of diversity and representation, the relationship between artists and the communities they represent, and offer ways writers and activists can work together to inspire and energize audiences.

Don’t You Hear This Hammer Ring: Origins, Mission, and Future of Split This Rock, Your National Organization of Socially Engaged Poets
(Abdul Ali, Sarah Browning, Regie Cabico, Noura Erakat, Jaime Jarvis, and Melissa Tuckey)
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

Come hear from Split This Rock organizers the story of Split This Rock—its origins in DC Poets Against the War and its current local and national programming. We’ll be sharing our varied visions for the future and welcoming your ideas and suggestions. Together we can build Split This Rock into a lasting network, an advocate, a platform, a home.

Write from the Source: Breath, Gesture, Word (Janet E. Aalfs)
Thurgood Marshall Center-1

This workshop will combine breath awareness, movement and rhythm, writing, and spoken word in an exploration of internal and external sources of poetry and activism. Working with the figure-8, we will experience the "third thing" which is about balance, relationship, and paradox—and share learning across cultures. Through individual, partner, and group exercises, participants will be encouraged to work at whatever level feels possible, and supported to take risks.

Birth and the Politics of Motherhood in Poetry
Alicia Ostriker, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, Diana Garcia, and Patricia Smith)
True Reformer Building-1

Motherhood has often been seen as an inferior, overly sentimental subject for poetry, but what of motherhood poems that move from the internal to the external, between mothering and the politics of war, race, class, and sex? What are the challenges and rewards of writing as a political mama? Poets from different regions, generations, origins, and aesthetics, will take us to the pregnant belly of the issue, sharing poems and perspectives on the politics of motherhood.


11:30 am-1 pm   PANELS & WORKSHOPS

The Poet as Historian in the 21st Century: A Rare Opportunity in Difficult Times
Andrea Carter Brown, Martha Collins, Scott Hightower, Robin Coste Lewis, and Kim Roberts)
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

Since the earliest epics, poetry has been used to tell, and preserve, human history. This tradition is increasingly challenged by a glut of information which makes it difficult to speak with authority about anything outside personal experience. We have also become aware that entire aspects of experience have been excluded. In this panel, five poets discuss projects inspired by these concerns in the hope other poets will gain the desire to make history their subject.

Fatty Girls, Imaginary Cocks, and Vaginas Built Like Bookstores: A Workshop on Writing the Activist Body (Laura Madeline Wiseman, Aimee M. Allard, and Erica Rogers)
Thurgood Marshall Center-1

Moving from their own creative and pedagogical experiences of writing the body as an act of deviance to promote social change, three poet activists will lead several activities allowing workshop participants to rethink the body. Exercises will delve into such taboo subjects as first period stories, the silences written on our bodies, and how the ghosts of our previous bodies haunt us.

Poesia Para la Gente: Writing to Save Lives
Lorna Dee Cervantes)
Thurgood Marshall Center-2

We will write as much as we can using exercises. This workshop will cover the many ways poetry can fly off the page and infiltrate the hearts and minds of the people by remaining relevant. We will pay close attention to craft, voice, and ecopoetics so that getting poetry to fly off and on the page will happen seamlessly.

Radical Diversity: The Presentation of Poetry as an Agent of Radical Change
Rich Villar, Lynne Procope, and Marie-Elizabeth Mali)
True Reformer Building-1

The LouderARTS Project’s mission is to radicalize the inner dialogue about the self--shifting the definition of other. Poets and curators from the New York-based nonprofit discuss the popular 11-year reading series and the programming formats developed over the years to celebrate and canonize the poetry of writers that have been overlooked or labeled as “marginalized.” The panel will share examples of how the teaching and presentation of well-crafted poetry from those diverse communities has served and can serve to shift political viewpoints and opinions on an individual level, and in turn, a societal level.

Fire and Ink: A Social Action Writing Anthology, and the Rewards of Teaching Activist Writing (Martín Espada, Alicia Ostriker, Patricia Smith, Diana Garcia, Melissa Tuckey, and Frances Payne Adler)
True Reformer Building-2

Martín Espada, Alicia Ostriker, Patricia Smith, Diana Garcia, Melissa Tuckey, and Frances Payne Adler, discuss Fire and Ink, a groundbreaking new anthology of 100 activist writers (University of Arizona Press) that marks the emergence of social action writing as a distinct field within creative writing and literature. Panel focuses on the rewards, rather than the trials and tribulations of teaching social action writing. Writers and teachers of political poetry are too often on the defensive.


12:30-1:30 pm    TEEN OPEN MIC (Bell Multicultural High School)

With special guest Jeffrey McDaniel, former DC slam champion and Split This Rock featured poet. DC-area youth, speak up, speak out! Open to all teens 13-19. Bring a 3-minute poem and sign up at the door. Hosted by Regie Cabico.


1-2 pm        LUNCH BREAK

(Sinan Antoon, Sarah Browning, Martín Espada, Andy Shallal, and Patricia Smith)
True Reformer Building-2

Join us as we celebrate the lives and work of four great crusaders for justice and beauty—three poets and an historian—whom we’ve recently lost. Dennis Brutus, Lucille Clifton, Mahmoud Darwish, and Howard Zinn are among the inspirations for Split This Rock; we stand on their shoulders. Friends and colleagues will present remembrances and favorite poems, then you'll be invited to add your voice, as well, as we honor these visionary world citizens.


2-4 pm    DC YOUTH SLAM TEAM FINALS (Bell Multicultural High School)

Get your slam on at the final round of slam team competition. Winners will represent DC at Brave New Voices, the national teen slam, in Los Angeles in July.


2-3:30 pm   FILM & PERFORMANCE

Willow Books Reading
(Tara Betts, Antoinette Brim, Curtis Crisler, and Lita Hooper)
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

This reading will feature the recently published poetry collections of the Willow Books, imprint of Aquarius Press, an independent press that a diverse cadre of writers call home. The poets highlighted here address a range of issues that engage the body, race, and gender; the slave narrative and the famous abolitionist, Sojourner Truth; the search for justice and healing from various aspects of history; and domesticity and the rural South.

We are All Iran: A Group Reading by Iranian-American Poets
(Persis Karim, Sholeh Wolpe, Kaveh Bassiri, Zara Houshmand, and Solmaz Sharif)
Thurgood Marshall Center-1

2009 marks the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, but in that anniversary year, much has happened to recall the infamous days when the Shah of Iran was toppled and the Islamic Republic of Iran established itself. What do Iranian American poets have to say about the last thirty years; what do they have to say about the recent events of the 2009 election uprisings? This group reading highlights the work of six Iranian-American poets who write about and chronicle some of the experiences of Iranians and Iranian-Americans and who bear witness to the events of the people of Iran in their struggle for greater freedom and democracy.

AQUI ESTAMOS: A Sampling of Poetry From the Inaugural Acentos Poetry Festival
(Richard Villar, Martín Espada, and Marie-Elizabeth Mali)
True Reformer Building-1

This reading from the festival's inaugural lineup will be followed by an uncensored discussion involving the festival's organizers, keynote speaker, participants, and the audience. Among the range of topics for discussion: the continued necessity for a festival of this kind; the mission behind the festival's sponsor, The Acentos Foundation; the presence, or lack thereof, of Latinos and Latinas in U.S. letters; and matters of language, politics, and craft, as well as how/where/why these topics intersect. Cosponsored by Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


3:30-5 pm     FREE TIME

5-7 pm       FEATURED READING (Bell Multicultural High School)

Richard McCann

Allison Hedge Coke

Lenelle Moïse

Fady Joudah

8-10 pm       FEATURED READING (Bell Multicultural High School)

Toni Asante Lightfoot

Martha Collins

Sinan Antoon

Chris Abani

With readings of winning poems by winners of the 2009 and 2010 Split This Rock Poetry Contests Simki Ghebremichael, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, and Teresa Scollon

10:30 pm-1 am      PARTY! (Dance Institute of Washington)

Tunes spun by Split This Rock youth worker Phenomejon!