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Split This Rock 2012 Featured Poets

Below are short biographies for 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 our featured poets, click here.

Homero Aridjis is the author of more than forty books of poetry and prose and is one of of Latin America’s leading environmental activists. In 1985 he founded the Group of 100, an association of artists and intellectuals devoted to environmental protection and the defense of biodiversity in Mexico, Latin America, and the world. Twice the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Aridjis has taught at Columbia University, NYU, the University of Indiana, and the University of California at Irvine. He has served as Mexican ambassador to the Netherlands, Switzerland and UNESCO, and was twice elected President of International PEN. Eyes to See Otherwise / Ojos de otro mirar (New Directions) is a wide-ranging bilingual anthology of his poetry. His latest bilingual book is Solar Poems (City Lights).
Sherwin Bitsui is the author of two poetry books, Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), and Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003). His honors include a Whiting Writers Award, an Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, a Lannan Foundation Marfa Residency, a PEN Open Book Award, and an American Book Award. He is originally from Baa’oogeedí (White Cone, Arizona on the Navajo Nation). He is Diné of the Todich’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the T?’ízí?ání (Many Goats Clan).
Kathy Engel is the author, most recently, of Ruth's Skirts (IKON) and co-editor, with Kamal Boullata, of We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon (Interlink Books). She is currently a full time faculty member at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Art & Public Policy Program and also teaches in NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She co-founded MADRE, Riptide Communications, East End Women in Black, and Hayground School. She is co-director of Lyrical Democracies, with Alexis De Veaux. She currently works closely with The Young People’s Project, focusing on questions of youth and community.
Carlos Andrés Gómez is an award-winning writer and performer from New York City. A former social worker and public school teacher, Gómez has performed at over 200 colleges and universities and toured across North America, Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. A star of Spike Lee's #1 movie "INSIDE MAN" and HBO’s “RUSSEL SIMMONS PRESENTS DEF POETRY,” he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was named Artist of the Year at the 2009 Promoting Outstanding Writers Awards. His most recent CD release is Vitruvious.
Douglas Kearney is a poet, performer, and librettist. His second book of poems, Catherine Wagner’s selection for the National Poetry Series, The Black Automaton, was published by Fence Books in 2009. Kearney's first collection, Fear, Some, was published in 2006 by Red Hen Press. In 2008, he received a Whiting Writers Award. He lives in Los Angeles with his family and teaches courses in African American poetry, hip-hop, opera and myth at California Institute of the Arts.
Khaled Mattawa is originally from Libya. The author of four books of poetry, most recently Tocqueville (New Issues), he is the translator of nine volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry and the co-editor of two anthologies of Arab American literature. Mattawa has been awarded the Academy of American Poet's Fellowship Prize, the PEN-American Center award for poetry translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Alfred Hodder fellowship from Princeton University, an NEA translation grant, and three Pushcart prizes. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Rachel McKibbens is the author of Pink Elephant and a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been published in numerous journals and anthologies including World Literature Today, The New York Quarterly, and The American Poetry Journal. She is the 2009 Women of the World poetry slam champion, an eight-time National Poetry Slam team member, and three-time finalist. She was an Urban Word NYC mentor, teaching poetry to youth at Bellevue Hospital. For four years, she co-curated the award-winning louderARTS Project reading series in New York City, coaching their poetry slam team to three consecutive National Poetry Slam final stages. She teaches poetry and creative writing throughout the country, from housing projects and needle exchanges to high schools, hospitals, and universities.
Marilyn Nelson's most recent book of poems for adults is The Cachoeira Tales And Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press). She is also author of numerous books for children and youth, including Fortune’s Bones, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. Her young adult book, A Wreath For Emmett Till,won the 2005 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and was a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. Her other honors include two NEA fellowships, the Annisfield-Wolf Award, the Poets' Prize, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, three honorary doctorates, and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. Nelson is a professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut; founder/director of Soul Mountain Retreat, a small writers' colony; and Poet Laureate of Connecticut from 2001 to 2006.
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 been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. In January 2010 she was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Jose Padua was born in Washington, DC, in 1957. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Bomb,, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Unbearables, Crimes of the Beats, Up is Up, but So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, and many other journals and anthologies. His manuscript, Here Comes the Monster, was runner-up for the Many Mountains Moving Poetry Prize. After living in Washington and New York all his life, he now lives in the small town of Front Royal, VA, where he and his wife, the poet Heather Davis, write the blog Shenandoah Breakdown.
Minnie Bruce Pratt’s most recent book is Inside the Money Machine, described by one reviewer as “anti-capitalist poetics.”  Her previous book, The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems, received a Lambda Literary Award. Her poems about her relationship to her sons as a lesbian mother, Crime Against Nature, were chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. A member of the National Writers Union, Pratt does anti-racist and anti-imperialist organizing with the International Action Center and its Women's Fightback Network. After 30 years of adjunct teaching, she is a part-time Professor of Writing & Rhetoric and Women’s & Gender Studies at Syracuse University.
Kim Roberts's most recent book, Animal Magnetism (Pearl Editions, 2011), won the 2009 Pearl Prize. She is the editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the anthology Full Moon On K Street: Poems About Washington DC (Plan B Press, 2010). Roberts is the author of two additional books of poems, The Kimnama (Vrzhu Press, 2007), and The Wishbone Galaxy (Washington Writers Publishing House, 1994), and the nonfiction chapbook Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word in DC (Beltway Editions, 2010).
Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including, among others, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010),  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 the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 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.
Venus Thrash has had poetry published in Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Torch, and The Arkansas Review, and in the anthologies Spaces Between Us: An HIV/AIDS Anthology, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, and Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade. She has read at the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Center for African American Research, and The Library of Congress. She is a professor of fiction and poetry and a mother.
Writer and activist Alice Walker is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of fiction, poetry, and essays. Her work has been translated into more than two dozen languages and her books have sold more than 15 million copies. Her most recent collection of poems is Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. Other recently published volumes include The Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir and Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel. Walker has won numerous awards and honors, including the Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts & Letters, and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute, a Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award in 1983 for The Color Purple. Recent awards include the 2010 Lennon/Ono Grant for Peace.