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2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Every two years poets, activists, and dreamers gather in our nation’s capital for four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism. Featuring some of the most significantly and artistically vibrant poets today, the festival offers opportunities to speak out for justice, build connection and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can act as an agent for social change. Split This Rock Poetry Festival is DC’s premiere poetry event and the only festival of its kind in the country, highlighting poets working at the intersection of the imagination and social change. Relive festival memories by watching featured poet videos on Youtube or exploring our past festivals!



Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 -- four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism -- took place April 14-17, 2016. Below are details about the festival. Check out the full schedule! Information also made available via the festival mobile app for Android and iOS.


  It is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.  – Audre Lorde

Collage of 4 images from Split This Rock's 2014 festival - a man sharing a poem with cupped outstretched hands at the Vietnamese poetry reading, a woman outside at a microphone looking up hopefully at the sky at the public action, a woman in a trench coat standing outside at a microphone at the public action, a young man at microphone wearing a Split This Rock t-shirt at a featured poet reading. Text says 2016 Split This rock Poetry Festival and other event details.More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016 offers opportunities to explore these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand connections and build alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival will feature some of the most visionary and powerful voices of our time, representing the dynamic diversity of our world:

Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Regie Cabico, Dominique Christina, Martha Collins, Nikky Finney, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rigoberto González, Linda Hogan, Zeina Hashem Beck, Dawn Lundy Martin, Craig Santos Perez, and Ocean Vuong.

Visit the Featured Poets page or check out our Feature Poet Interview Series on our blog to read more about our fabulous line up for 2016.

We're thrilled to also share that Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, will kick off the festival with a special event at the Library of Congress on April 13, and will be part of this gathering of socially engaged poets from his position as a national spokesperson for poetry. Specific details are available on the Library of Congress' website.

Sign up on our mailing list to stay informed!


Featured Poets 


FEATURED READINGS (FREE and open to the public)

Thursday, April 14 | 7:30 pm-9 pm: Aracelis Girmay, Craig Santos Perez, Ross Gay, 2015 Annual Poetry Contest winner Sara Brickman, a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team. Learn more on the the Facebook event page.

Friday, April 15 | 7:30 pm-9 pm: Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Regie Cabico, 2016 Annual Poetry Contest winner Lauren Alleyne, a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team. Learn more on the Facebook event page.

Saturday, April 16 | 4:30 pm-6 pm: Dominique Christina, Dawn Lundy Martin, Martha Collins, a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team. Learn more on the Facebook event page.

Saturday, April 16 | 8 pm-9:30 pm: Nikky Finney, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Ocean Vuong, a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team. Learn more on the Facebook event page.

Sunday, April 17 | 11:30 am-1 pm: Rigoberto González, Zeina Hashem Beck, Linda Hogan, and a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team. Learn more on the Facebook event page.

About the Public Action and Special Events 

We gather for the Public Action at 9:45, Friday morning, at Human Rights Campaign. Bring Poems of Love & Welcome for the Public Action!

In the past year, we've witnessed a terrifying rise in the rhetoric of hate and fear. Public figures are driving us apart, scapegoating immigrants and refugees, demonizing our Islamic sisters and brothers, demeaning anyone who does not fit their notion of an American. From 10 to 11 am Friday, we'll flash mob downtown DC with poems of love and welcome. From street corners, we'll read poems to passersby and pass out copies, too. Washington, DC, awash in love!

Bring a poem of love and welcome to read - of your own or one you admire. We'll also have poems from Split This Rock's new social justice poetry database, The Quarry, if you'd rather read one of those. And we'll have lots of copies of those to distribute. Details about of where, when, and how, plus public policy recommendations here.

Other special events over the festival weekend include open mics, the Social Justice Book Fair, and a -- new this year -- a dance party on Saturday night. Times and places and vital details at this link right here!


Online Registration is CLOSED. Registration will be available at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Forum (1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036) on Thursday, April 14 (8:30am to 5:30pm), Friday, April 15 (8:30am to 5:30pm) and Saturday, April 16 (8:30am to 4pm).

Accessible Registration
While we prefer online registration, if the online form is not accessible to you, it is available to be downloaded as a hard copy in Word or as a PDF.

Readings, Panels & Workshops
For a full list of session descriptions visit the Program & Schedule page. Be on the lookout for the launching of the festival mobile app as well, where you'll be able to access information by searching for "Split This Rock" on your smartphone.

At every festival, we take poetry to the streets of the nation’s capital to demand a new world based on justice. Visit the Public Action page for more information.

Share Your Poetry
The festival will include several open mic events. 

Join fellow poets for food, drink, and dancing at the Saturday night reading after-party, hosted by Dark Noise Collective and Busboys and Poets.

We are happy to partner with the Beacon Hotel to offer special discounted rates to festival participants. Located at 1615 Rhode Island Avenue, NW in DC, the Beacon Hotel is a short walk to all of the festival venues. To book your stay at the Beacon, click here and reserve your room(s) no later than Monday, March 14, 2016. Make your reservation early as space is limited and sells out quickly.

Split This Rock values individuals of all abilities and strives to make its programs and materials accessible to all. The festival’s venues and hotel were selected with accessibility in mind, to ensure that people with mobility disabilities can attend. Large print program books will be available at the festival by request. If you have questions or suggestions or would like to request accommodation for a particular need, please contact Camisha Jones at or 202-787-5210. 

We depend on volunteers to make the festival a success! Those who help for 5 or more hours receive free registration to the festival. To submit an application to volunteer with Split This Rock, click here.

Split This Rock is happy to offer a limited number of scholarships to cover the cost of registration for people who would not otherwise be able to attend Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016. To apply for a scholarship, click here and submit the form by March 31. For further information, contact Camisha Jones at 202-787-5210 or

Group Rates
For information on reduced rates for groups of 8 or more, please contact Tiana Trutna at 202-787-5210 or

Sponsor the Festival
Split This Rock Poetry Festival is only possible through the generosity of those who support it! Festival sponsors help ensure that featured poet readings remain free, that festival registration is economical, and that scholarships are available to anyone who needs one. If you or an organization you are affiliated with are interested in investing in the event, visit our Sponsoring page for more information. We are grateful!

For More Information
Check the menu to the right for more festival information. Answers to many of your questions may also be found on the FAQ page. Connect with us on our blog, where you'll find a series of interviews with the 2016 festival featured poets. Visit Split This Rock's Youtube channel to watch videos from past festivals. Go through the website to learn more about Split This Rock or make a donation.