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Program & Schedule: Thursday, March 11, 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)

9:30-11 am   PANELS & WORKSHOPS 

The Peace Shelves: Essential Books and Poems for the 21st Century
(Sarah Gridley, Jeff Gundy, Fred Marchant, and Philip Metres)
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room

What are the books and poems that you think absolutely essential to our understanding of the causes of violent conflict, of the nature of dynamic peace-building, and of alternate visions of a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world? Four award-winning poets from different backgrounds, but with a common thread of peace-activism among them, will discuss what they think are the essential items needed on any Peace Shelf and invite audience members to offer their recommendations as well.

The Public Role of Poetry: How to Build a Poetry Reading
(Dan Wilcox and Toni Asante Lightfoot
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

This workshop will address the public role of poetry in the community. Participants will return to their home communities with the tools and knowledge to immediately organize a poetry reading or open mic. They will have identified venues, community organizations with which to partner, local community issues, and will have in-hand practical guidelines and checklists that will enable them to successfully stage their event.

Writing from the Margins: Life, Survival, and Healing for Women of Color
(Alison Roh Park and Vaimoana Niumeitolu)
Thurgood Marshall Center-2

Too often women of color exist at the margins. With a higher likelihood of poverty, low wages, single parenthood, violence, and sexual violence, many women’s lives follow a trajectory of pain and survival without healing. Creative Writing, however, offers tremendous power to heal, by sharing our respective stories and creating dialogue. In this workshop, we will use freewrites, prompts and writing exercises specifically created to elevate the experience and realities of a ethnically, sexually, generationally, and otherwise diverse community of women of color.

The Care and Feeding of the Rural/Small Town Poet-Activist
(Heather Davis, Kristin Camitta Zimet, José Padua, and JoEllen McNeal)

True Reformer Building-1

Where do we most need the poetry of witness—the city or the country? Some might argue that small towns and rural communities are in desperate need of progressive poetic voices. What does it mean to live and write outside the liberal urban environment? We’ll discuss how poets in “homelander” territory can survive and thrive while using poetry to bring about social change. Together, panelists and the audience will create a “Rural Poet-Activist’s Toolkit.”

Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing: A Conversation with Cuban Poet Nancy Morejón
(Shani Jamila, Nancy Morejón)
True Reformer Building-2

One of the foremost Cuban poets, translators, and thinkers of her generation, Nancy Morejón has not visited the United States in years. Here is a rare opportunity to hear her perspectives on Cuban poetry, the writing life in Cuba today, and prospects for the future. Moderated by journalist and poet Shani Jamila.


11:30 am-1 pm   PANELS & WORKSHOPS

The War is Not Over: Writing About Iraq and the Case of the Mutanabbi Street Coalition
(Persis Karim, Zaid Shlah, and Sarah Browning)
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room

This panel seeks to explore how writing about a particular moment (the Mutanabbi Street bombing) can illuminate for readers the idea that literature, poetry, the mere use of words to mark a tragic event, can foster some connection between cultures and between writers. The Mutanabbi Street Coalition sees its work—not just in terms of the event itself—but as a way to understand the very necessity of books, ideas, and the sacred spaces where books and writers gather.

Cross-Discipline Collaboration: How Writers and Artists are Working Together to Push Boundaries and Engage the Public
(Fred Joiner, Anne Becker, Sally Brucker, and Lucinda Dugger)
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

This panel will highlight two different initiatives that produced collaborative projects among poets, visual artists, and dancers. It will explore how cross-discipline collaborations produce exciting, fresh works, lasting partnerships, and engage the public in viewing art differently. After briefly sharing their collaborative initiatives, panelists will engage the audience in a discussion about how cross-discipline partnerships can be used to spur public involvement in community issues, give a voice to both artists and writers, and encourage the creation of innovative works and ideas.

Giving Voice to the Silence/d
(Patricia Monaghan, Annie Finch, Judith Roche, Patricia Spears Jones, and Richard Cambridge)
Thurgood Marshall Center-1

Poets help us hear the world’s unheard voices. This includes the voices of men, women, and children who are denied the right to speak their own truth because of economic, political, and/or other oppressions. It also includes the voices of the natural world: animals, plants, and other beings who share the earth with humans and who are endangered by human indifference to their rights and needs. Participants in this panel will explore the challenges that they, as poets, face in serving as interpreters of the lives of human and non-human others.

Let Us Work Together: A Practical Guide & Discussion on Creating Community-Based Writing Projects
Adriana Sánchez Alexander and Xelena González)
Thurgood Marshall Center-2

In this interactive session, we will share our experience and give examples of how poets can engage in public practice, using their craft to create powerful, transformative art and explore what it means to create work in partnership with community members not typically seen as “literary.” Ultimately, participants will gain the tools to set up their own creative writing projects that will engage their communities and support their work as poets and activists.

Gay and Lesbian Poetry in the 40th Year Since Stonewall: History, Craft, Equality
Francisco Aragón, Jericho Brown, Reginald Harris, Janet Aalfs, Joseph Ross, and Dan Vera)
True Reformer Building-1

Forty years after the Stonewall riots, the beginning of the modern GLBT Civil Rights Movement, we will discuss the roots, craft, and witness of Gay and Lesbian poets today. We will discuss the inspiration we receive from our Gay and Lesbian ancestors: how being gay and lesbian affects our writing, and the hope that our writing witnesses to the Gay and Lesbian civil rights movement today.


1-2 pm        LUNCH BREAK

2-3:30 pm   FILM & PERFORMANCE

Split This Rock 2010 Film Program
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room

A screening of cutting-edge short films that showcase how poets, writers, and activists are collaborating with visual media artists to explore critical social issues. Edited by poet, filmmaker, and Director of the Poetry Center of Chicago Francesco Levato.

Reclamation, Celebration, Renewal, and Resistance: Black Poets Writing on the Natural World
(Camille T. Dungy, Gregory Pardlo, E. Ethelbert Miller, Remica L. Bingham, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Mark McMorris)
Thurgood Marshall Center-S

Reading their own poems and other poems collected in Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, DC-area African American poets will explore their beliefs about how claiming a stake in the natural world is a form of social and political activism.

7 & 7: 7 Poets Celebrate Kundiman's 7th Year
Hossannah Asuncion, Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, Janine Joseph, Chi Lam, Joseph O. Legaspi, Soham Patel, Alison Roh Park, and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai)
True Reformer Building-1

Kundiman poets gather to showcase a provocative range of voices and aesthetics engaging in a poetic conversation about building the imaginative capacity of our communities. Kundiman is dedicated to nurturing emerging Asian American poetry. In a culture where the lives and voices of Asian Americans are often marginalized or excluded, Kundiman works to overturn this inequality by creating a community where Asian American poets can articulate our struggles, possibilities, and liberation.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly Tenth Anniversary Reading
True Reformer Building-2

Reading by select guest editors featured in the Tenth Anniversary Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly: Naomi Ayala, Andrea Carter Brown, Sarah Browning, Regie Cabico, and Toni Asante Lightfoot. Introduced by editor Kim Roberts.


4:30-6 pm    POETRY IN THE STREETS (Upper Senate Park)

The United States has now spent $1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, our public schools and universities are facing massive cuts, millions of Americans are without health care, the earth is desperate for loving attention. Clearly, our lawmakers need the poets to tell them how to spend the next $1 trillion.

Bring your vision for the country and the planet to the Capitol! On Thursday, March 11, we will create and read aloud a collaborative Cento poem at Upper Senate Park.

Please bring a line from a poem (up to 12 words), by you or by someone else, that articulates this vision. Write or type your line on a piece of paper. Include the name of the poet, your name (if different), and your home town.

Feel free to bring signs, but no poles bigger than 3⁄4" around and no signs offering anything for sale.

The Cento will begin with these lines sent to us by Adrienne Rich, from “An Atlas of the Difficult World”:

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse ...

We will meet at Upper Senate Park, near Union Station, on Metro’s Red line (Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter on the Green/Yellow lines). The #96 bus leaves from the northwest corner of U and 14th Street NW and goes right to the park, stopping at the corner of D Street NW and Louisiana Avenue NW.


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

Francisco Aragón

Lillian Allen

Mark Nowak

Nancy Morejón


10:30 pm-Midnight      OPEN MIC & FILM PROGRAM

Split This Rock 2010 Film Program
Busboys and Poets, Langston Room

A screening of cutting-edge short films that showcase how poets, writers, and activists are collaborating with visual media artists to explore critical social issues. Edited by poet, filmmaker, and Director of the Poetry Center of Chicago Francesco Levato.

Open Mic featuring Sulu DC
Marx Café

Hosted by Regie Cabico and featuring Sulu DC. Speak your mind, speak your truth, split some rocks. Bring a 3-minute poem and sign up at the door.