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Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018 Featured Poets

We are thrilled to present some of the most innovative and necessary poets of our time at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018. Below are the brilliant poets who will feature at Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Visit the blog, Blog This Rock, to learn more about the poets through the Featured Poet Interview Series.


Elizabeth Acevedo

Image of Elizabeth against a black background. Elizabeth turns her head slightly and stares directly into the camera, smiling. She is wearing a black turtleneck and bright pink lipstick. Her hair is voluminous, black, and curly.Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo is a National Slam Champion and has performed for over 14 years at such nationally and internationally renowned venues as The Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, South Africa’s State Theatre, The Bozar in Brussels, and the National Library of Kosovo. She is also well known for poetry videos, which have gone viral and been picked up by PBS, Latina Magazine, and Cosmopolitan. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol, Callaloo, Poet Lore, The Notre Dame Review, and others. Acevedo is a Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer's Workshop. She is the author of Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and her debut novel, The Poet X (HarperCollins) was recently released to rave reviews. She served as coach of Split This Rock's DC Youth Slam Team from 2013 to 2015. Learn more at her website. Photo by Stephanie Ifendu.


Kazim Ali

Image of Kazim Ali against a black background. Kazim wears a black turtleneck and looks slightly towards his right shoulder. He has a moustache, and a short goatee with side burns. His long, wavy salt and pepper hair is pulled back into a tousled bun held together with a red hair stick. His expression is neutral. Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom to Muslim parents of Indian, Iranian, and Egyptian descent. He received a BA and MA from the University of Albany-SUNY and an MFA from New York University. His books encompass several volumes of poetry, including Sky Ward, winner of the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry; The Far Mosque, winner of Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award; The Fortieth Day; All One’s Blue; and the cross-genre text Bright Felon. His novels include the recently published The Secret Room: A String Quartet and among his books of essays is Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice. Ali is an associate professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. His new book of poems, Inquisition, and a new hybrid memoir, Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies, will both be released in 2018. Learn more at his website. Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones.


Ellen Bass

Image of Ellen Bass against a white background. Ellen has short, curly salt and pepper hair and green eyes. She wears a black shirt, grey wool jacket and silver earrings with a brown stone on the bottom. She is turned to the viewer’s left but smiling directly towards the camera.Ellen Bass’s poetry includes Like a Beggar, which was nominated for five awards (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), and Mules of Love (BOA, 2002). She co-edited, with Florence Howe, the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973). Her poetry has appeared frequently in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Among her awards are a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fellowship from the California Arts Council, three Pushcart Prizes, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize, The Larry Levis Prize, and the New Letters Prize. Her nonfiction books include Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies, I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse which has been translated into twelve languages. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University. Learn more at her website. Photo by Irene Young.


Sherwin Bitsui

Image of Sherwin Bitsui in closeup, outdoors with the Grand Canyon behind him. The plants in the canyon are green and blooming. Bitsui looks intently toward the distance, out of frame to the camera's right. He wears a black, fleece, pull-over with a zipper and has short, dark hair and dark eyes.Sherwin Bitsui (Diné) is the author of Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press) and Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press). He is of the Bįį’bítóó’nii’ Tódi’chii’nii clan and is born for the Tlizilłani’ clan. He is from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. Bitsui holds an AFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing Program and a BA from University of Arizona in Tucson. He teaches for the MFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An ecopoet, he has poems published in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. Steeped in Native American culture, mythology, and history, Bitsui’s poems – imagistic, surreal, and rich with details of the landscape of the Southwest – reveal the tensions at the intersection of Native American and contemporary urban culture. Bitsui's honors include the 2011 Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Native Arts & Culture Foundation Fellowship for Literature, a PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award.


Kwame Dawes

Image of Kwame against a black background. Kwame wears wire frame glasses and a leather jacket with a black shirt underneath. He looks directly into the camera, though his eyes are not fully open. He has a dark beard and mustache that is slightly graying. The portrait is taken from the shoulders up.Kwame Dawes has authored thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and essays, including, most recently, City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern, 2017). Speak from Here to There (Peepal Tree Press), co-written with Australian poet John Kinsella, appeared in 2016. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska where he is a Chancellor’s Professor of English, a faculty member of Cave Canem, and a teacher in the Pacific University MFA Program in Oregon. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica in May of each year. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Learn more at his website. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffins.



Camille T. Dungy

Portrait image of Camille Dungy smiling directly at the camera. She wears narrow, cat-eye glasses, a cardigan style sweater in multi-toned neutral colors of black, beige, and silver-gray. She wears a long, gold, necklace with large tawny colored stone pendant in a gold setting. Her dark hair is styled in long dreadlocks and parted in the middle.Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006). Her debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W. W. Norton, 2017). She also edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009), and co-edited two other collections. Dungy’s honors include an American Book Award, two NAACP Image Award nominations, Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowships, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, nearly thirty other anthologies, and over one hundred print and online journals. Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. Learn more at her website. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.



Ilya Kaminsky

 Black and white image of Ilya Kaminsky with a broad smile and eyes closed in mid-laugh. He wears dark framed glasses and a striped button up shirt under a dark fleece jacket zipped up just below the collar of his shirt. He has dark fairly short hair with loose waves. To his right is a slanted wall of windows with white framing that reflects other buildings in the area.Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1977 and came to United States in 1993 when his family was granted asylum. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press) and Deaf Republic (forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2019). He is also the co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins) and co-translator of Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, among several other books and anthologies. His work had been recognized with American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, Whiting Writers Award, Lannan Foundation Fellowship, Yinchuan International Prize for Poetry (China), and several other honors. In addition to his writing, he is the professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State. He has also worked as a law clerk at several non-profits including National Immigration Law Center and Bay Area Legal, and most recently as court appointed special advocate for orphaned children in San Diego. Learn more at his website. Photo by Cybele Knowles.


Sharon Olds

Image of Sharon Olds in black and white. Sharon is sitting by a window with one arm resting on the windowsill. She rests her head on her hand and looks off into the distance, her mouth open as if she is in the middle of a conversation.

Sharon Olds is most recently the author of Stag’s Leap (2012), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the T.S Eliot Prize (UK), and Odes (2017). She teaches in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at New York University where she helped found the original outreach program at Goldwater Hospital, a 900-bed state hospital for people with physical disabilities. These programs at NYU now include a writing workshop for Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. She lives in New York City. Photo by Hillery Stone. 







Sonia Sanchez

Portrait style image of Sonia Sanchez wearing a dark brown, heavily textured sweater, a necklace of multicolored beads, and drop earrings of a light colored stone. She smiles at the camera. She has warm brown eyes, and wears her salt-and-pepper hair in shoulder-length, curly, dreadlocks.Considered one of the most significant writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including, among others, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010), Homegirls and Handgrenades (White Pine Press, 2007), Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (1999); Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998); and Does your house have lions? (1995), which was nominated for both the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award. Among the many honors she has received are the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999. She was the first Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. Learn more at Sonia Sanchez's website.


Solmaz Sharif

Image of Solomaz against a blurred urban background. Solomaz looks away from the camera, smiling. Her dark brown hair is styled in loose curls with bangs. She is wearing a white top. The portrait is taken from the shoulders up.Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from New York University and the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She is the author of the poetry collection Look (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Witness, and other publications. The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, scholarships from NYU and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. She has also received an NEA fellowship and a Stegner Fellowship. In 2014, Sharif was awarded a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, as well as a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship. She is currently a lecturer at Stanford University. Learn more at her website. Photo by Arash Saedinia.


Terisa Siagatonu

Image of Terisa standing next to a tree in an outdoor setting. Terisa stands with one hand on the side of the large tree. She smiles and looks directly at the camera. She is wearing a colorful striped shirt and styles her long black hair in a ponytail. This portrait is taken from the waist up. Terisa Siagatonu is an award-winning poet, arts educator, organizer, and mental health advocate from the Bay Area. She has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, and the White House. A recipient of President Obama’s Champion of Change Award, her writing has been featured on Button Poetry, CNN, NBCNews, NPR, Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Upworthy and elsewhere. A national poetry slam finalist, she is also a slam coach on both the youth and collegiate level, having coached 5 poetry slam teams to place Top 20 in the nation. Siagatonu is also a Senior Poet Mentor with Youth Speaks, Inc., leading poetry lessons with Bay Area high school students and professional development with teaching artists. She is one of the co-creators of The Root Slam, a poetry venue in Oakland, CA, and was a member of the 2017 Root Slam Poetry Slam Team. She holds a Masters in Marriage/Family Therapy from the University of Southern California, aiming to merge art and therapy throughout her healing work, both on and off-stage. Learn more at her website. Photo by Margarita Corporan.


Paul Tran

Black and white, portrait image of Paul Tran. They look over their left should directly at the camera with a serious expression. They wear a see-through, leopard print, button down shirt and a large silver ring on one hand with a stone that might be turquoise. Tran's dark hair is swept back in a tousled pompadour, and they are wearing a septum ring, dark lip stick, and a light mustache. Paul Tran is Poetry Editor at The Offing and Chancellor's Graduate Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Their work appears in The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and RHINO, which gave them an Editor's Prize. A recipient of fellowships and residencies from Kundiman, VONA, Poets House, Lambda Literary Foundation, Napa Valley Writers Conference, Home School, Vermont Studio Center, The Conversation, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Miami Writers Institute, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, Paul is the first Asian American since 1993 to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam. Since 2013, Paul has taught creative writing and coached the slam poetry teams at Barnard College, Brown University, Columbia University, Hunter College, New Urban Arts in Providence, RI, and Urban Word NYC, as seen on HBO Brave New Voices. Paul is working on their first poetry collection. The manuscript examines intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, and U.S. empire after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Learn more at their website. Photo by Chrysanthemum Tran.

Javier Zamora

Image of Javier against a field of grass and yellow flowers. He wears a v-neck white t-shirt. His hands are to his side and he smiles while looking directly into the camera. Directly next to him is a wooden post from a fence. This portrait is taken from the waist up.Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador, in 1990. He is the author of Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon, 2017). He holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied and taught in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program. Zamora earned an MFA from New York University and is currently a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a 2017 Lannan Fellow. He is the recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf, Frost Place, Napa Valley, Squaw Valley, and VONA writers’ conferences and fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University (Olive B. O’Connor), MacDowell Colony, Macondo Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Saltonstall Foundation, and Yaddo. In 2016, Barnes & Noble granted him the Writer for Writers Award for his work with the Undocupoets Campaign. He was also the winner of the Ruth Lilly/Dorothy Sargent Fellowship and is a member of the Our Parents’ Bones Campaign, whose goal is to bring justice to the families of the ten thousand disappeared during El Salvador’s civil war. Learn more about Javier at his website. Photo by Ana Ruth Zamora.


To read about how we select featured poets for Split This Rock Poetry Festival, click here.