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2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Poetry by and for the 99%!

March 22-25, 2012, Washington, DC

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.

As people’s movements ignite here at home and throughout the world in response to economic inequality, political repression, and environmental degradation, the festival will consider the relationship of poets and poetry to power and to the challenges to power. We will also celebrate the life and work of poet-essayist-teacher-activist June Jordan on the 10th anniversary of her death.

Split This Rock calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation & witness from our home in the nation’s capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. —June Jordan

Check out photos from the festival here!

Welcome Letter from the 2012 Festival's Program Book

Dear Friends,

This is a good time
This is the best time
This is the only time to come together

June Jordan wrote those words in the 1980s, when it felt as though the nation were pulling apart, just as it does today. And yet, This is the only time to come together, she told us, this model poet-activist-thinker.

At the tenth anniversary of her passing, Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness celebrates and honors June Jordan’s revolutionary imagination, as we remember her words and her work. Jordan was fiercely committed to the struggle to communicate across our differences, even when it’s hard.

How many minutes
How many hours before we agree that loving ourselves
does not require our hatred of somebody else?

We are poets and activists of all ages from around the country: women and men, gay poets and straight, folks of all races and ethnicities, from all social classes, of all physical abilities. Listening to each other’s poetry, engaging one another in conversation, imagining another world together – this is how we build momentum for social change.

Good poems can interdict a suicide, rescue a love affair, and build a revolution in which speaking and listening to somebody becomes the first and last purpose to every social encounter.

We are poets who believe in this power of poetry – to restore hope in the possibility of change, to engage our full humanity, to awaken our minds to the tragedy and beauty around us. Too often in the past, we heard that tired axiom that poetry and politics don’t mix. But we know that poetry is one of the most powerful tools we have for bearing witness to injustice and provoking change. Indeed, we are in the midst of a gorgeous flowering of American poetry of conscience – led by poets of color, who were writing this literature of challenge all along – a golden age of American poetry. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

It was Sam Hamill who brought us together as no one else had, in 2003, at the height of Bush II’s madness. We are honored to salute him and to pay tribute to his 40 + years of work on behalf of poetry and social change. See page # for details.

June and Sam have taught us, too, that we must lead. Who else? The politicians and pundits? We know where that has landed us. So let us address the tough questions, talk to one another honestly. We urge you, over these four precious days, to attend sessions on topics new to you, to expand your thinking. Meet new people, swap poems, tell stories, listen.

We hope you’ll go home inspired to stay open to the beautiful, broken world. We’ll all have the opportunity to learn practical skills, too, such as how to bring this openness to young people eager for authentic expression; how to write prose that moves and enlightens; how to write poems that speak for the voiceless, that grapple with tremendous suffering, that tell the truth.

And speak out! A tiny minority – a few insanely wealthy people and corporations – is attempting to hijack our democracy. Be sure to get down to the Capitol on Friday at 4:30 pm as we create a group poem declaring, Enough! We will tell the courts and the people: Money is not speech. Poetry is speech. Full details, including bus and train information, is on page #.

To tell the truth is to become beautiful, June Jordan tells us.

We welcome you here to our nation’s capital, Washington, DC – city of Go-Go, of barricades, city of mambo sauce and desperation – for this purpose: to tell the truth. To become beautiful.

May we.

Split This Rock Team