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Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018 | April 19-21, 2018 | Washington, DC

Many thanks to all who joined us for the festival this year! We'll be back in 2020.

We're still reeling from the incredible three days of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018! The readings, conversations, gatherings, hugs, movement, stillness, writing, and exchange challenged us and opened us and girded us for the struggles ahead. 

Head over to the Split This Rock blog to check out our round-up of 2018 festival press coverage! 

Image of Kwame Dawes at the microphone during his reading at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018. He wears a dark jacket, a kinte clothe scarf, and glasses. Image of Yael Flusberg leadinrg a yoga and writing workshop at Split This Rock Poetry Festival. She and 2 attendees are standing and appear to be stretching. Image of Camille Dungy sitting at the book signing table talking with someone getting their book signed. Sharon Olds is sitting to her left in the background.Photos by Kristin Adair                                 


Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness is a biennial event that takes place in Washington, DC. It is one of the few of its kind in the country highlighting poetry at the intersection of the imagination and social change. As DC’s premiere poetry event, it gathers more than 700 poets, activists, and dreamers in our nation’s capital for readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, open mics, and activism, plus a book fair and a party. The most recent festival occured April 19-21, 2018.

Featuring some of the most significant 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.


Collage of the 2018 festival featured poets.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival is one of the rare occasions you’ll find national slam champs, Pushcart and Pulitzer Prize winners, and emerging talents presented together on one stage. Poets featured at the 2018 Festival:

Elizabeth Acevedo, Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Camille T. Dungy, Ilya Kaminsky, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, Solmaz Sharif, Terisa Siagatonu, Paul Tran, and Javier Zamora

Want to learn more? Read their full bios on the Featured Poet page.




Over the course of the festival's three days, Split This Rock hosted over 50 workshops, panels, and readings led by artists, activities, and educators from across the country. See the complete list of sessions on the 2018 Festival Program & Schedule page.  

Image of a session at the 2018 festival. Panelists are seated facing a packed audience. Image of two people facing each other in conversation at the 2018 festival. One person wears a scarf in shades of orange and pink, has long dark hair, and is gesturing with both hands in front of them. The other has a short hair cut and white collared shirt. Image of a Rachel Wiley at a podium and speaking into a microphone at the 2018 festival. Rachel has shoulder length light pink hair, and wears a red shirt that says Photos by Kristin Adair


Image of a person sharing a poem at the 2018 festival public action. The person has brown skin and glasses, wears a head wrap, and holds a microphone.Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018 included a variety of special events and readings that were open to the public. In addition to featured readings, we invited the public to share socially-engaged poetry at late-night open mics, take poetry to the streets during a public action, visit the Social Change Book Fair, and celebrate ten years of Split This Rock at the Saturday night party! Read more about the special events that occured on our 2018 Festival Special Events page. 

Read the Cento created at the 2018 Festival Public Action Event on its webpage. Photo by Kristin Adair.


Not only does poetry equip us to speak out against oppression but it helps to sustain us in these extremely perilous times. It reminds us of what it means to be fully human, holds the vision of what is possible, creates community, keeps alive what we value: compassion, justice, love. Poetry helps us find our voice when we feel powerless. It helps us be our best selves, so we can continue the long-term activism our current climate demands.

As we selected sessions for the 2018 festival, we were particularly interested in sessions designed to help us combat despair (or ride through it), learn from one another across generations, celebrate cultures targeted by hate, figure out what it means to live in this time, and equip us all as creative and effective citizens and activists. Special areas of interest were sessions focused on disability, transgender issues, reproductive rights, xenophobia/immigration, health care issues, confronting white supremacy, poverty and economic inequality, and eco-justice.

It was our desire to offer a schedule that included opportunities to learn ways that poetry is being engaged in resistance efforts against oppressive measures by political leaders that put our civil rights, health, education system, environment and lives at risk. As always, we were also on the look out for sessions that reflect diversity, creative ways of interacting, intergenerational conversations, and ideas that are new to us.

Join us again in 2020!


Image of Sonia Sanchez at a 2018 festival featured poet reading. Other audience members are seated in rows to her right and a couple of people stand behind her. Sonia Sanchez is standing and pointing. Image of the seated audience members at a 2018 featured poet reading. Two members of the audience have both of their hands raised in the air. The photo is taken from behind them facing the stage where you Sharon Olds, Danez Smith, and Dan Vera standing on stage off in the distance.Photos by Kristin Adair