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Program & Schedule - Friday, April 15, 2016

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 wheel chair accessible. 

Click the links below to view each day's program. Also, join us for this very special kick-off event:

Library of Congress Kick-Off Event with Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States. 7pm, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, Coolidge Auditorium, FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Thomas Jefferson Building of Library of Congress, Ground Floor, 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540.
21st Poet Laureate Consultant Juan Felipe Herrera will celebrate the conclusion of his term of his laureateship. Book sales and signing will follow.  Co-sponsored by the Library of Congress Hispanic Division. Further event details are available on the Library of Congress' website.


Friday, April 15


Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum [Map]

8:30am - 12pm

Busboys and Poets Pop Up Cafe

Busboys and Poets will selling coffee and other snacks!

Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum [Map]

9:45am – 11am

Take Poetry to the Streets! Counter Hate and Fear: Commit Public Displays of Poetry!

Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum [Map]

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.

Poetry has a special role to play in this climate: crying out against injustice, but also welcoming one another, celebrating what is beautiful in one another, offering love in the face of fear.

For one hour on Friday, we’ll flash mob downtown DC with poems of love and welcome. We’ll gather in the Equality Forum of the Human Rights Campaign at 9:45 am and then break into small groups, after which we’ll fan out through the surrounding area. Each group will have a leader-person, who will guide it to a designated spot. From street corners, participants will 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.

Please put your name and hometown on the poem you bring and hand it to your guide when the action ends. We’ll get as many of the poems on the blog as possible afterward – a Virtual Open Mic of Love and Welcome!

How Do We Enact Love and Welcome in Public Policy?

• Stop deporting families back to Central America. The Obama Administration has deported more people than the administration of any past president.
• Welcome refugees, particularly of wars of our own making. More than one third of the world’s refugees are Iraqi and Syrian, fleeing wars and areas of conflict that resulted directly from the US invasion of Iraq. At this time, the US is committed to accepting only 15,000 Syrian refugees, despite the enormity of the crisis.
• Commit to the safety of Black and brown people. End police killings and reform the American criminal justice system, which incarcerates citizens at a greater rate than any country on earth.
• End legal discrimination against LGBTQ people throughout the land and combat violence against trans people.
• Enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act to guarantee the full inclusion of people with disabilities in public life.

11:30am – 1:00pm

And The Earth Did Not Devour Us: A Farmworker Reading
Sarah A. Chavez, Miguel Morales, Neftali Cuello Villalobos
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 300 [Map]

The 2016 election is already steeped in issues of immigration and the working class. Immigrant stories from privileged politicians will flood the media with manipulated images of workers and uncontextualized data. This information is incapable of communicating the nuance in the material lives of farmworkers who are so often used to polarize public policy. For that we’ll need literature and art. This reading features diverse, award-winning writers in various stages of their careers who have themselves labored as farmworkers. Despite differences in age (early 20s to late 40s), education (PhDs to high school drop-outs), and geography (West coast, Midwest, South), they share a drive to revisit and honor aspects of the farmworker experience that often go unrecognized: the connection between culture and farm labor, the disabling of the body, the intersection of gender and sexuality in labor and labor movements. They will read from their own work and share and discuss the farmworker literature that influenced their writing.

Bois in Color – A Reading on Queerness & Race
Cameron Awkward-Rich, Chen Chen, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Danez Smith
University of California Washington Center (UCDC) Auditorium [Map]

In moments like ours, when the fact of racist violence “re-emerges” everywhere we look, there is an understandable tendency to retreat into single-issue politics--to claim Audre Lorde as black but not lesbian, or to strip Bayard Rustin of his homosexuality--which nonetheless participates in the murderous flattening of poc lives. Against this impulse, our work as queer bois of color asks: what can queerness teach us about race, about resistance, about productive masculinities, about flourishing? This event will consist of each presenter offering a brief account of how their work fits into this larger conversation, followed by a reading, and will conclude with time set aside for a Q&A.

Can You See Us? Policed Black Womanhood
Destiny Birdsong, April Gibson, Kateema Lee, Katy Richey, Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Institute for Policy Studies Conference Room [Map]

This reading will feature the work of black women writers who employ a range of craft approaches to writing the policed black woman's body, particularly when it is complicated by identity constructs such as poverty, (mental) illness, differing abilities, and addiction. Recent media coverage of the murders of black men has raised awareness about the vulnerability of black male bodies. However, the dehumanizing effects of policing are not treated with the same urgency for black women, whose multiple subjectivities place them in a constant police state. Everyone from police officers to doctors are trying to control, cure, or (as is the case in pop culture) reduce black women to commodified parts. In response, four poets and one fiction writer at various stages of their careers will read work that explores how such bodies are policed, how this policing informs our writing lives, and how we respond in ways that signal empowerment and rearticulation. The audience will be asked to participate in an interactive art project, and we will host a Q&A after the reading.

Cross X Bridge – Indigenous Poets, Genre, and Native Literature
Heid Erdrich, Eric Gansworth, Deborah Miranda, Trevino Brings Plenty, Karenne Wood
Human Rights Campaign Room 105 C [Map]

Native American/Indigenous poets perform work that fuses genre, to cross and bridge cultures. Indigenous resistance asserts itself in poetry that crosses genres to expand Native Literature through line, lyric, and poetics that meld with music and moving images. Our voice performances speak from urban and reservation lives, from distinct nations—for those who are silenced. The poets will perform and engage listeners in a talk back session. We are Lakota, Ojibwe, Onondaga, Esselen and Chumash, and Monacan. We come from all directions to share our visions and make our histories and presence known.

Physical Bodies and Poetic Bones
Diana Smith Bolton, Marlena Chertock, Leeya Mehta, Sarah Sansolo, Tyler Vile
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 101 [Map]

This panel will discuss body image and bodily integrity through the lens of female experience. Poetry carves a space that is inclusive and experimental, while still acknowledging and respecting poetic tradition and heritage. As poets, we contain multitudes beyond the straight, white, male experience. This panel will attempt to address the complex realities of the female body and identification (or rejection) of it as lived through poetry. Further, there are social and political implications for individuals whose bodies do not conform to the dominant media standard, such as through disability, racial identity, and gender identity. In recognition of emerging social justice for LGBT individuals and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this panel will explore how poets can channel the physical body into their poems to explore the physical and non-physical. This panel includes group discussion, poetry readings, and take-home workshop materials.

Poetry as Liturgy: Choosing and Using Poems
Karen Escovitz, Elliott batTzedek
AFL-CIO Murray Green Conference Room [Map]

This workshop explores ways of using poetry as liturgy in public and private events by learning which poems work and how to use them. Poetry—words that translate the felt into the spoken—is a powerful took for change. But when poetry is used in events it often falls flat because the poems are too heady, or too clumsy, or used in ways that distance or dull them. In this workshop, members of Fringes: a feminist, non-zionist havurah, in which poetry is used as liturgy, will work with participants to explore the elements of successful liturgy, practice these skills by evaluating poems in small groups, learn about and then practice a variety of interactive ways to use poems, learn about ways to use poetry and singing/music interactively, explore the Cento as a way to create new liturgy, and practice building a Cento or writing a liturgical piece in small groups. At the end of the workshop, participants will have new ways of thinking about the role of poetry in events such as protests and memorials. They’ll have criteria to help choose which poems will work, and a set of new ways to use those poems.

Poet’s Forum: How Political Engagement Affects the Writing Process
Presented in Partnership with the Poetry Foundation and POETRY magazine
Jennifer Bartlett, Martha Collins, Aracelis Girmay, Ocean Vuong – moderated by Lindsay Garbutt of POETRY magazine

AFL-CIO Gompers Room [Map]

Festival featured poets Jennifer Bartlett, Martha Collins, Aracelis Girmay, and Ocean Vuong will each read a poem or excerpt of theirs from the Split This Rock section of the current issue of POETRY magazine and discuss the considerations they brought as writers and politically engaged individuals to composing. One of the editors of POETRY will then moderate a conversation and invite everyone to join a discussion both about those texts and about how writers’ political engagement affects their writing process. What is at stake for us when we write as “political poets”? In a gathering focused for the most part on the finished poem, this session will bring attention to the process by which the poem is created by making featured poets available as working artists to festival participants.

Power of the Pen: Making Books to Empower Communities
Pia Deas
Human Rights Campaign Room 105 AB [Map]

During the 1960s, Dudley Randall created Broadside Press, the first African American poetry press. Broadside Press was essential to providing an outlet for new poetic voices, establishing a collective identity, and empowering a community. Through its example, participants will discuss how making books, either as individuals, as a collective, or as a press, can be essential to lifting up voices of oppressed and marginalized groups. Workshop participants will have an opportunity to examine some sample books from Broadside press. The workshop will include a book-making session during which participants will learn techniques for creating their own books. Participants will consider what current political and social issues they might respond to in their books and what new perspectives they might offer. Ultimately, the goal of the workshop is for participants to create books of their work as an individual and collective response to contemporary issues. The workshop will end with an opportunity for participants to share what they created.

Unlanguaging White Supremacy: Toward a Solidarity Poetics Practice
K. Bradford, Jen Hofer, Kristen Nelson
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Gallery [Map]

The world in all its beauty and brutality is made of language. Language scaffolds systems of institutionalized injustice -- and for poets, language is also the tool of our radical art-making and our revolutionary re-imaginings. What language can we use to unwrite white supremacy as it colludes with transphobia, sexism, classism and heterosexism? How to reimagine oppressive modes and syntax in and beyond language? On whose backs are our bridges built and how might we trouble the model of the bridge? What practical strategies and radical awareness about racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and solidarity action can we build without falling into clichés of allyship? This workshop will incite adventurous approaches to poetics as a spark and foundation to imagine otherwise; to conceive language as a tool for forging our way toward transformed community/kinship ties as potential for action. The facilitators of this workshop face daily moments where our gender, race, class or sexuality are "passed." Whether we are white & anti-racist or of mixed ethnicity, we ask: how can we acknowledge the privileges assigned to us while resisting the systems that afford those privileges. We invite a rigorous re-imagining of ways to notice and interrupt oppressive dynamics and structures – internally and externally, personally and systemically: poetically.

Writing about Animals in the Anthropocene
Kazim Ali, Allison Pitinii Davis, Gabriel Gudding, Ross Gay, Gretchen Primack
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 102 [Map]

Graceful deer, loyal dogs, the white chickens by that red wheelbarrow--we poets love our animal poems. But the way we look at animals has changed so much over the years as we learn about their consciousness and their treatment in our age. As those of us concerned about environmental justice look more deeply into the dynamics between humans and (other) animals, how has our writing changed? How can we write environmental justice into our animal poems? What is a "progressive" animal poem? The writers on this panel will share poems and ideas about these very questions and ask participants to share theirs. We will participate in freewriting and listen to each other's work.

2 – 3:30pm

#BlackPoetsSpeakOut: From Hashtag to Social Justice Movement - A Panel Discussion
Amanda Johnston, Mahogany L. Browne, Derrick Weston Brown, Steven Leyva
University of California Washington Center (UCDC) Auditorium [Map]

In the wake of a grand jury failing to indict Darren Wilson in the murder of Mike Brown, Black Poets Speak Out was launched as a way to rally poets and allies to respond against police violence. In a short time, hundreds of poetry videos were posted and shared internationally across social media outlets and live readings, forums, and action events were produced. BPSO organizers Amanda Johnston and Mahogany L. Browne and regional coordinators Derrick Weston Brown and Steven Levya will discuss how the online campaign was developed and progressed to a community action-based movement.

Apocalyptic Thinking: How the Poet Constructs a New World
Juan Morales, Lisa D. Chavez, Israel Wasserstein
Institute for Policy Studies Conference Room [Map]

In a recent article in The Atlantic, the authors remind us of the consequences that come with apocalyptic films, shows, books, and media. The fatalistic lens of apocalyptic thinking that can create “[an] Over-reliance on the apocalyptic narrative [that] causes us to fear the wrong things and to mistakenly equate potential future events with current and observable trends.” However, the despair and anxieties of these times can open up dialogue on environmental, political, and social issues today. In this panel, three poets from the states of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico read and discuss how apocalyptic thinking can impact, challenge, and strengthen the poet’s role as an activist on the page and in their communities, when tackling probable scenarios and preventable events and facing fears.

Attention! Women At Work: Madwomen in the Attic
Tess Barry, Sheila Carter-Jones, Celeste Gainey, Emily Mohn-Slate, Maritza Mosquera
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 300 [Map]

In an era when women still struggle to find open and diverse spaces to write and share their work, the fostering of grassroots poetry communities for women has never been more necessary. Four diverse poets from Pittsburgh’s Madwomen in the Attic writing community, directed by Jan Beatty at Carlow University, will speak to the importance of Madwomen in their lives personally and politically. We will discuss the ways Madwomen acts as an inclusive community for women writers, and as a force for empowerment in the larger community, and how we continually strive to improve in this area. Through its creative writing workshops, annual print anthology, local and national reading series, and mentorship program — Madwomen has built an inclusive community in which words are channeled into challenging and powerful art. This roundtable will be interactive. Each presenter will speak briefly about her experience as a member of the Madwomen in the Attic, while highlighting dynamic and essential aspects of the program. Using Madwomen as a model, we will involve participants in a discussion about how to enact, in their own localities, artistic and grassroots community-building, by and for women of all ages, ethnicities, and classes, through the medium of poetry.

Poetry of Resistance ~ Voices for Social Justice
Carlos Parada Ayala, Sarah Browning, Carmen Calatayud, Martín Espada, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Joseph Ross
AFL-CIO Gompers Room [Map]

In response to AZ SB 1070, a racial profiling law passed in 2010 in Arizona, the late poet-activist Francisco X. Alarcón created the Facebook page, "Poets Responding to SB 1070.” He invited his colleague Odilia Galván Rodríguez and other poet-activists to join him. Poets Responding became a public forum calling for a humane and just immigration reform, for social justice for those racially profiled, and who, as a result, suffer grave injustices, not only here in the United States, but also in other countries. With over 600,000 visits and more than 3,000 poems posted to the site, the poet-moderators decided to publish an anthology. Panelists will read works from the recently released anthology, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press,) and discuss the lively mixing of poetics and politics, which will serve as a focus for discussion with the participants on the topic of building a community of writers willing to take action. The discussion will also center on the necessity of writing poetry of witness, as a means of calling out and for action against the injustices being suffered in the most recent upsurge of racially motivated hate crimes facing People of Color across our planet.

Queer Pan-Latinidad: A LBGTQ Latina/o Poetry Reading
Rosebud Ben-Oni, Nívea Castro, Denice Frohman, Rigoberto González, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Ruben Quesada
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 102 [Map]

Queerness and Latinidad both offer spaces to explore the complex, messy, and undefined parts of LGBTQ Latino/a poets. To combine both is to honor the queerness in Latinidad, and the Latinidad in queerness. Five Latina/o poets explore the diversity of Queer Latinidad, representations of marginalized communities such as Afro-Latino and Central American, and queer issues of racism and class. A question and answer session will follow the poetry reading, in order to engage with the audience on the rich complexities and nuances of Queer and/or Latino/a identity in 21st century poetry and poetics.

Research as Inspiration and Muse
A. Van Jordan, Reginald Harris, Kim Roberts, Frank X Walker, Dan Vera
Human Rights Campaign Room 105 AB [Map]

This roundtable will explore how primary sources, such as historical archives, oral histories, diaries, and newspapers, can be the starting point of poems. We will discuss how we incorporate factual information, how public and personal histories intersect, and how poems can serve as a corrective for stories of forgotten people and events that might not otherwise enter the cultural memory. We will address specific issues of craft: how can we remain true to the facts and not impede our imagination? How do we keep our poems from becoming too didactic? Panelists will give examples from their own work and the poems of others that have inspired them, and talk about their experience as researchers.

Restorative Poetics
Samiya Bashir
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 101 [Map]

Humanity on trial in digital space. Inexhaustible violence of -ism and image. We’ll consider the power of poem-making to metabolize aggression out of our bodies, to reclaim and restore humanity, and more. We’ll explore an alchemical poem-making toward transmutation of experience, insight, and approach--collaboratively and individually--toward resolution of swarming aggressions into light, into recognition, into direction, into sustenance. We’ll come with all we carry. We’ll leave with new poems, new maps, new seeds.

Successful Teen Poetry Programs
Elizabeth Acevedo, Michael Bolds, Hodari Davis, Franny Choi, Deirdre Love, Jonathan B. Tucker
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Gallery [Map]

Across the world, schools and organizations are developing new and innovative ways to create engaging, exciting, and educational poetry programs for teenage students. Spoken word and performance poetry are driving an increase in poetry’s popularity among younger generations. Join in conversation with some of the leading practitioners of this important youth work from across the country, as they discuss the challenges and joys of using poetry to change lives and school communities.

Talk Back to Clobber Texts – in Poetry!
Phyllis Meshulam, Tracy Gold
AFL-CIO Murray Green Conference Room [Map]

“Clobber passages” is a term referring to verses in the Bible used to justify discrimination against gay people. These verses are a rich source of inspiration for talk-back poems, and there are many other sources that should be reclaimed and challenged via poetry. In this session, we will use poetry to talk back to messages from any source promoting racism, sexism, militarism, environmental degradation, or inciting domination, exclusivity, and intolerance. Maybe we’ll re-tell the story, interrupting it with our own thoughts, characters. Maybe we’ll use erasure to chisel at the text until a story of acceptance or empowerment emerges. Maybe we’ll use a passage as an epigraph/introduction, then take off, fleshing out our own sensory visions of a better world. There’s beautiful language in many of these texts, and their familiar narratives hold some authority. We can leverage that language or respond in our own voices. The workshop leaders will provide texts (and sample poems), but you can also bring your own – from scripture, myths and folktales to campaign literature, pop music, propositions, statutes and advertisements. Then we’ll make kick-ass poetry!

4 – 5:30pm

The Drawbridge Collective: Disrupting and Reimagining Aesthetics of the Craft
Elizabeth Acevedo, Amin Law, Pages Matam, Terisa Siagatonu, Clint Smith
University of California Washington Center (UCDC) Auditorium [Map]

Coming from both spoken word and formal literary backgrounds, while pushing back against the notion that these are mutually exclusive, the Drawbridge Collective will give a reading imbued with dynamic performance and literary merit. The reading will serve as an exhibition of new voices that traverse multiple genres and discuss what it means to be young artists of color at a time in America when many young people of color are on the receiving end of ubiquitous, and often state-sanctioned, violence. All under the age of 30, this group represents a new generation of multi-racial artists rejecting the false dichotomy between "the page" and "the stage." Their collective reading will specifically focus on the idea of intersectionality as it relates to racial justice. From illuminating the congruence between the Palestinian Liberation and Black Lives Matter movements to delineating what arts education looks like in a cross-cultural context, each poem is ingrained with critique, vulnerability, and honesty.

Hybrid Poetics: Igniting the Living Text
K. Bradford, Ching-In Chen, Angel Dominguez, Janice Sapigao
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Gallery [Map]

This panel will investigate and activate the cross-hatchings between hybrid bodies and hybridized poetic forms. The core question: how do our bodies, which are marked by multiplicity — mixed race, mixed class, gender variant, queer, polyamorous — call forward unique poetic forms? As poets of radical embodiment, what we do to the sentence, to forms of writing on the page — and how we test the borders of the page itself — are acts of aesthetic and cultural subversion. Our cultural and political hybridity, our refusal to occupy or assimilate to states of singularity, infuses and drives our textual inventiveness. We see the page as a living text that speaks from and to our cultural bodies and collective experiences. Our poetics preach our daily walk, as writers and as community-builders who trace our lineages forward and back across time. Exploring cultural embodiments of text such as choral structures, call & response, field notes, polyvocal assemblages, sonic scores, community ritual & more, the poets on this panel will 1) perform samplings of such work; 2) discuss these techniques/expressions and how they reflect and activate hybrid, halfbreed cultures and politics; 3) engage participants in exercises and community dialogue.

Increasing Queer Visibility through Independent Publication: A Reading and Discussion
Miguel Morales, Mónica Teresa Ortiz, Sarah Maria Medina, Raquel Gutiérrez, César Ramos
Institute for Policy Studies Conference Room [Map]

The representation of the queer Latina/Latino community in mainstream imagery is limited to a vision lacking depth and complexity. Usually fixating on a cultural stereotype or a pre-conceived notion of sexuality, often marginalized if it does not adhere itself to exploitation. Contemporary queer Latina/Latino poets, editors, and publishers are creating their own spaces that allow for the exploration of other messages such as; identity, organizing, writing, family, and social justice. Through the discussion of these fundamental themes we hope to increase visibility, foster solidarity, and raise awareness of diverse representations of the queer Latina/Latino community. Featured authors of Raspa Magazine, a queer Latino literary magazine, will read and discuss their work, their experience with independent publications, and the challenges faced in order to maintain such mediums viable.

Language of the Unheard: Rural Children of Color and Literature
Alex "PoeticSoul" Johnson, Patrice Melnick, Rosalyn Spencer, Latasha Weatherspoon
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 101 [Map]

In rural America, there are close to four million children of color: full of power, promise, possibility, and potential. Unfortunately, because they are in rural communities, they do not receive the media attention afforded to children of color in more urban areas, and they are often under-prioritized by charitable or benevolent organizations. Educators Patrice Melnick and Rosalyn Spencer will join poets-cum-spoken-word-artists Latasha Weatherspoon and Alex “PoeticSoul” Johnson to explore the art of working with marginalized youth groups. Through active discussion, they will lead the roundtable in finding ways that literary artists can engage with youth, such as: Mentorship, volunteering at youth facilities, and organizing and actualizing artists’ presentations in schools, detention centers, and other facilities. Presenters and participants will consider the ways that literary artists act as youth activists, and how they can maximize their efficiency with methods like community grant programs and collaboration  with other activists and community and religious organizations. Together, we –as poets, spoken word performers, and literary artists– will help our communities’ children thrive, succeed, and take the artistic and cultural future that is rightfully theirs.

Off The Page, On Your Feet: Moving To Labor Poetry
Elise Bryant, Rocky Delaplaine
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 300 [Map]

Activism and activists thrive in a community of kindred spirits. It takes courage to speak truth to power. Like laughter, courage is contagious and can be cultivated, nurtured, passed along. In this workshop we will pick a few potent poems about work, and back up the words with the power of our breath, volume and timbre of voice, gesture, expression, and shared movement. When we stand, move, and speak truths using the medium of poetry, we embody courage and become its transmitter.

On the Move: Engaging New Poets - Four Milwaukee Social Justice Poetry Projects
Portia Cobb, Freesia McKee, Margaret Rozga, Angela Trudell Vasquez
Human Rights Campaign Room 105 AB [Map]

Four Milwaukee social justice poet-activists create projects that move, literally and metaphorically. They will engage the audience in discussing and practicing strategies for generating poetry in prisons, community-based workshops, even a bus road trip, and for keeping poetry experiences alive through print, performance, and video projects. Milwaukee’s Freedom Summer 50 project involved students in a semester-long multi-arts study of voter registration struggles and culminated in a bus trip to Mississippi’s Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary conference. Students wrote and read poems in open mics on the bus. At the ACLU of Wisconsin’s annual Youth Social Justice Forum, students learn the importance of free speech and telling their stories. Students hear poets present socially-conscious poetry, write their own pieces, and have the option to perform in this supportive environment. To address Milwaukee’s mass incarceration problem, a community-university partnership heeds Jimmy Santiago Baca’s advice: “If they won’t let our young brothers out, YOU GO IN.” Poets do readings with Prose & Cons in Racine, offer workshops at a men’s work-release prison, and collect books for a women’s prison. UW-Milwaukee’s cream city review’s fall 2015 issue is incarceration themed.

A Preview Reading from Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology
Martín Espada, Ross Gay, Tiffany Higgins, Linda Hogan, Craig Santos Perez, Emmy Pérez, Melissa Tuckey
AFL-CIO Gompers Room [Map]

Poets in this session will give a preview read from the forthcoming Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology and participate in a Q & A about eco-justice poetry. Aligned with environmental justice activism and thought, eco-justice poetry defines environment as “the place we work, live, play, and worship.” This is a shift from romantic Western notions of nature as a pristine wilderness outside of ourselves, toward recognizing the environment as home: a source of life, health, and livelihood. It is poetry born of deep cultural attachment to the land and poetry born of crisis. It is recognition that the fate of the land is connected to the fate of people. Recent linguistics studies show that the most bio-diverse parts of the world are also the most culturally diverse. In places where biodiversity is threatened, linguistic diversity and culture are also threatened: current thinking in conservation acknowledges the connection between culture and environment. And yet, many western nature anthologies are monocultural. Ghost Fishing brings together a culturally and stylistically diverse collection of poets and poems to expand environmental consciousness.

Revolt: Writing Poetry Inspired by Radical India
Minal Hajratwala, Ellen Kombiyil, Shikha Malaviya
Human Rights Campaign Room 105 C [Map]

"I am broken by the revolt exploding inside me." – Namdeo Dhasal, poet and founder of the Dalit Panthers. In this powerful and engaging workshop, poets of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective draw poetic inspiration from activist art from various waves of political movements in India and the diaspora. Using prompts drawn from a variety of poets who have been engaged in activist movements, participants will write deeply into issues of exile, imperialism, identity, caste/color discrimination, sexuality, and more. We'll explore how verse turns the deeply personal detail into the universal, bringing to light little-known voices from India’s radical political traditions and injecting new energy into American poets wishing to engage with global revolutions. We’ll share all the materials so that participants can take them back and share with their own communities and/or students, diversifying their reading lists to include vibrant contemporary global voices of protest.

Writing Beneath War: The Middle East
Zeina Hashem Beck, Philip Metres, Solmaz Sharif
Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives Room 102 [Map]

A themed group reading and conversation among poets whose work has struggled against the machinery of orientalist representations that has poisoned Western views of the Middle East. These poets explore other ways of seeing and writing our relationship to the Middle East. Zeina Hashem Beck’s first collection, To Live in Autumn, centers on a post-war Beirut; more recent work juxtaposes war/ISIS/the Arab Spring with personal experience. About Philip Metres’ recent Sand Opera (2015), Mark Nowak writes: “His unrelenting scrutiny of peace, war resistance, and the military-industrial complex, coupled here with erasures…gives us a bold new libretto about the black site at the heart of this country.” Solmaz Sharif’s forthcoming book, LOOK (Graywolf 2016), is a poetic rewrite of the U.S. Department of Defense's dictionary, connecting the operations of military and political language to the fate of her Iranian family story. Hayan Charara’s Something Sinister (2016), his first book in a decade, grapples with the entangled conflicts of the personal and political. About Charara, Fady Joudah writes: “His poems feed us what we want, and what we think we want, because the poems have made a pact with us: that they will also offer us what we fear.”


Jennifer Bartlett Jan Beatty Regie Cabico, 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Contest Winner Lauren Alleyne, and a member of the award winning DC Youth Slam Team, Cedric Harper

National Geographic, Grosvenor Auditorium
1145 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036  [Map]
Entrance on M Street
(Books will be available for sale by Upshur Street Books)

10pm – 12am - Open Mic

Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Street, Cullen Room
1025 5th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 [Map]

Open to the public. Free to festival registrants, $5 for all others.