Program & Schedule: Friday, March 28, 2014
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.
All venues are accessible. Please let us know what your needs are.
Click the links below to view each day's program.
Friday, March 28
8:30am – 5:30pm - FESTIVAL REGISTRATION
Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum [Map]
8:30am - 12:00pm
Vigilante Coffee Shop at Split This Rock!
Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum [Map]
10:00am – 11:00am
Take Poetry to the Streets! A Public Action
Tell the Government to Stop the Spying! End the Surveillance State!
As poets, we know that the imagination is precious, a birthright. We cannot let the government intrude. We will join together at the White House to create a poetic form called a Cento. Please bring a line of poetry, yours or another’s, that celebrates the free exchange of ideas and/or speaks out against the surveillance state.
The line should not exceed 12 words. Write it on a piece of paper, to be handed to an organizer after you read it. Include the name of the poet, your name (if not using your own work), and your hometown.
11:30am – 1:00pm
Cultural Boycotts: A Roundtable Discussion
Adrienne Rich, on endorsing the call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel in 2009, wrote, “Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel’s continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges.” PEN American Center, on the other hand, opposes cultural boycotts under any circumstances: “The universally guaranteed right of all to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers includes the right to engage in direct, face-to-face discussions, debates, challenges, and collaborations.” Activists in our movement hold a variety of positions on cultural boycotts in general and the call for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel in particular. Join us for an open, respectful discussion of a difficult issue, in the spirit of exchange and transformation.
Gathering Forces: A Living Anthology of Black LGBTQ Poetry
We will perform and discuss selected works by notable black LGBTQ poets from the Harlem Renaissance era to the 1990s (e.g., Ai, Essex Hemphill, Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Claude McKay, Pat Parker, Reginald Shepherd). Discussion will consider the poets, their choices, experiments, ideas, contexts, and structures. The session will conclude with a Q&A that addresses the key role that black LGBTQ authors have, and continue to play, in expanding our sense of the possibilities of literature and the arts, (re)shaping canons, and transforming contemporary politics via the poetic.
Opening Borders: Translating Poetry Across “Enemy” Lines
This panel will focus on the translation of poetry from several countries and regions—including the Arab world, China, Venezuela, and Vietnam—with which the United States now has, or has had, antagonistic relations. The four translators will discuss the political and cultural importance of this kind of translation for furthering understanding, as well as some of the challenges it presents for the translator. The panelists will talk about their own experience as translators and read and discuss some poems they have translated as starting points for group discussion.
The Politics of Writing
Mark Nowak and William Ayers will engage in a public conversation moderated by radio host Marc Steiner of the Marc Steiner Show (WEAA, 88.9 FM, Baltimore) and recorded for future broadcast on the show. In his 1946 essay, “Why I Write,” George Orwell outlined four central reasons for putting words to the page: Sheer Egoism, Aesthetic Enthusiasm, Historical Impulse, and Political Purpose. Though our panel will delve into many of these categories, it will predominantly engage “Political Purpose” as its central feature. It will seek to engage audience members -- both at the festival and via rebroadcast on WEAA—in a deeper conversation on the political objectives of writing in the contemporary world.
Silence as an Agent of Change
This panel explores the silent self as an agent of change. Silence plays a role in the creative work of most writers, from the contemplative to the activist. Outwardly, it shows up as a reader’s pause, or as white space on the page. Inwardly, it can be the creative force out of which poignant lines and epiphanies occur. Whether internal or external, silence is a meaningful event that makes things happen. Panelists will examine the complexities of silence, the role it has played in their own writing, as well as engage attendees in sharing how silence has, or can be, a force in their own work, for solving personal and global issues.
“Tell it, Tell it!” Creating Poetic Broadsides
In this workshop, participants will learn about the history of the broadside in order to create their own meaningful broadsides. The workshop will begin with a brief introduction to the broadside and an explanation of its original use to advertise products and communicate news to its more contemporary use to showcase poetry in public places. This workshop will use the broadsides of the 1960s Black Arts Movement to showcase how poets of a previous generation combined poetry and illustration to create a dynamic political message to capture a community’s attention. Participants will then create their own broadsides to be displayed at Split This Rock.
Voices from the Latino Heartland: A Reading of Identity & Displacement by the Latino Writers Collective
Middle of the Map-Latino Writers Collective members will read and discuss the challenges and success of writing from the heartland, maintaining diversity of culture, and examining issues of displacement. Members capture individual experiences as political or social commentary, reflective, semi-autobiographical, humorous, or entertaining. Their craft reveals and examines the many facets of this unique cultural identity that includes class, gender roles, sexual identity, and immigration status.
Writing the Gender Spectrum
An intentional space for dialogue and community building for those who identify as trans, gender queer, gender non-conforming, and gender fluid.
2:00pm – 3:30pm
Acting for Writers: An Intergenerational Workshop
The workshop introduces the narrative and character-based poet to the actor’s toolbox in order to deepen character, sense of place, given circumstances, and conflict, providing cross-disciplinary craft tools for exploring different aspects of poets’ themes and situations. We will get participants on their feet through simple theatre games and improvisations that then serve as writing prompts for brief generative writing and sharing. Bruce, Oliver, and Pleydell each have decades of professional acting or directing experience, as well as decades of literary writing experience.
Bringing Poetry to the People
Poets in Unexpected Places (PUP) is an organization dedicated to placing poets and artists into unlikely public spaces for the purpose of engaging populations underexposed to poetry and making the genre more accessible. For this interactive performance panel, PUP’s curators will simulate one of their pop-up installations, followed by a short film and an interactive discussion around best practices for integrating the “immaterial culture of performance” into the public sphere, how to construct a multimedia narrative to cultivate a greater audience, and why it has never been more urgent to utilize the arts as a tool for community engagement.
Calling Whiteness to Account
Four white writers, all with recent or in-progress work that engages race, discuss how whiteness “happens” in writing (often without a writer realizing it) and how they attempt to challenge and disrupt that “happening” while making art. How do white poets acknowledge our privilege while also calling it to account? How do we identify and move past (while even occasionally harnessing) fear, self-consciousness, self-censorship, and guilt? Panelists share their approaches to the complexity of crossing the color line and to sensing where empathy—or, apparent empathy—ends and patience, vigorous observation, and even humor and wildness, come in. The conversation is open to people of all races and ethnicities who want to talk about the intersection of race, responsibility, and the demands of art.
Poetic Strategies for Change
How are poets working within movements for social change? And how are social change organizations creatively integrating poetry into their organizing strategies? What difference are we making? Hear from poets and activists who have built online movements, edited anthologies, and worked in tandem with Occupy and human rights campaigns. Learn and share strategies to take back to your own communities, local, national, and global.
Re-Imagining the Nature Poem: Post-Pastoral, Post-Colonial, Eco-Spectacle, Eco-Justice Poetry
European Romantic conventions continue to influence American conceptions of nature – as outside of ourselves, as depoliticized, a place to meditate in tranquility, a place to prove one’s independence or manhood. Poets on this panel bring a wide range of cultural traditions to the table and are writing stylistically diverse poetries. They will read their own work and discuss the origins of nature poetry in multiple cultural traditions, with an eye for how our conceptions about nature have (or haven’t) changed over time. What role has poetry played in shaping these conceptions? What shifts are in motion? What role might the imagination play in healing our relationships to one another and to the planet? What role might language play?
Resisting Silence, Refusing to Fade: Documentary Poems as Witness
This interactive workshop will introduce participants to documentary poetry, a powerful approach that incorporates excerpts from primary source material (e.g. text from documents, recorded voice from interviews, photography) into poetry in order to bear witness to events and experiences, most often of oppressed, silenced, or marginalized people. The workshop will provide a multimedia introduction to the form, a group activity and discussion using a documentary poem and its source document, and individual writing/reflection time.
Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence
Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, views poetry as a transformative art. By deploying techniques to challenge narratives about violence against women and making alternatives to that violence visible, the over one hundred American poets in Women Write Resistance intervene in the ways gender violence is perceived in American culture. Poets of resistance claim the power to name and talk about gender violence in and on their own terms. Indeed, these poets resist for change by revising justice and framing poetry as action. This reading will include a brief introduction by the editor and feature poets reading their poems and others from Women Write Resistance.
4:00pm – 5:30pm
Arte Poética II: The Politics of Publishing En Español in the United States of America
A reading and roundtable discussion by owners, editors, and poets representing independently owned US literary presses that publish in Spanish in the US. The panel will begin with a brief reading showcasing recent work published by US-based Spanish language literary presses. It will include a roundtable discussion (in English) of the political implications of publishing in Spanish within the US. Special attention will be given to the empowering role promoting writing in Spanish via publication can and must play within marginalized US-Latino populations.
The Black Rooster Collective: “You” Street Poets of Witness
The Black Rooster Collective was a workshop collaboration born on the “You” Street scene of DC in the mid-1990s. Members drew inspiration from Larry Neal and the Black Arts Movement, seeing their works as capable of chronicling the political, social, and personal upheavals that affected life in DC, particularly in their neighborhoods. The Black Roosters created individual aesthetic approaches to call attention to the issues of people sometimes unseen and unheard, they abolished the blurred line between “spoken word” and “poetry” and between “street poets” and “page poets, and individually have amassed numerous publications and awards. They will read from their works and discuss their aesthetics, their strategies, and the challenges they faced in creating their poems of witness.
The Bravest Monsters: Tributes to Poets Lost Since Split This Rock 2012
Join us as we pay tribute to the many poets who have left us over the past two years. Bring a poem by a poet who was important to you or a story about his or her impact. We’ll have a sign-up sheet and organize the session open mic style, with three-minute slots. We will remember Chinua Achebe, Kofi Awoonor, Amiri Baraka, Robert Chrisman, Wanda Coleman, Jayne Cortez, Maggie Estep, Juan Gelman, Jack Gilbert, Seamus Heaney, Anselm Hollo, Bill Knott, Maxine Kumin, Tato Laviera, Patricia Monaghan, Jose Montoya, Ahmed Fouad Negm, Ned O’Gorman, Jose Emilio Pacheco, Adrienne Rich, Harvey Shapiro, Nguyen Chi Thien, Reed Whittemore, Jake Adam York. We will also create a group poem with lines by each ancestor, to be posted on the blog during the festival, starting with this line from Adrienne Rich, Poetry means refusing/the choice to kill or die.
Fly Language: A Writing Workshop Led by the DC Youth Slam Team
Teenage poets from Split This Rock’s award-winning DC Youth Slam Team lead this writing workshop for all ages. These young poets will impress and inspire you. Come ready to write and share and have fun.
Nearly 2.3 million Americans—four times the population of Washington, DC—are in prison. “Lines Behind Bars: Poetry from Prisons Concrete and Intangible” will illuminate lives affected by imprisonment. Readings of both poetry and prose will address both literal incarceration and confining conditions such as mental illness. The connection between literal imprisonment and mental illness will be highlighted; a large percentage of incarcerated women and men are mentally ill.
This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching – A Group Reading
The classroom remains an essential, and often neglected, front in the struggle against homophobia. Bullying and bashing are widely prevalent in schools and, all too often, result in emotional and physical trauma, and even suicide. This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching (Megan Volpert, editor; Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) is a groundbreaking anthology of poems by 75 queer poet-teachers from around the world that will serve as a pedagogical tool in the movement to help LGBTIQ youth in crisis. Contributors will read selections from the anthology and discuss their own LGBTIQ educational work.
Women and War/Women and Peace II
Two years ago, we launched our first women and war/women and peace panel—and the results were powerful and well-received. The topic is hardly exhausted; in fact, that panel sparked the desire to make further critical connections between militarism and widespread violence against women. This time, we will continue to discuss the effect of systemic violence against women—and share our approaches to representing these themes in poetry. We will think about the ways that both war and non-violent resistance are enacted in social, historical, and familial matrices. Each presenter will read a few short poems and speak briefly on the critical and creative frameworks that have informed their aesthetic practices, followed by a Q&A.
7:30pm – 9:00pm - FEATURED READING
Anne Waldman, Tim Seibles, Maria Melendez Kelson
National Geographic, Grosvenor Auditorium
10:00pm – 12:30am