Program & Schedule - Friday, April 20, 2018
Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018 invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for three 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.
ONLINE REGISTRATION IS CLOSED BUT ON SITE REGISTRATION IS AVAILABLE EACH DAY.
Keep watch for when the festival mobile app goes live! You'll be able to download it to stay updated!
Click the links below to view each day's program. All venues are wheelchair accessible.
NOTE: Schedule below is subject to slight changes.
Friday, April 20
REGISTRATION | 9:30 am - 7 pm
National Housing Center
9 - 10 am
Poetry Speak Out! A PUBLIC ACTION
Louder Than a Gun: A Poem for Our Lives
Join us to create a massive group poem calling for an end to gun violence!
As young people plan a major school walk-out on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, poets gathered in DC for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness will join the DC-area action of the National Student Walkout in front of the White House to create a group poem calling for an end to gun violence. Those who wish can stay for the 19 minutes of silence, which will begin precisely at 10 am, to honor the memory of all those killed by guns in the 19 years since the Columbine school shootings. See more about National School Walkout DC on their Facebook event page.
Please bring a line of poetry – yours or another’s – that demands an end to the violence and celebrates lives free from the threat posed by guns. 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.
Raise your poetic voice louder than a gun!
Location: Lafayette Square, located directly north of the White House on H Street between 15th and 17th Streets, NW.
Meet at the National Housing Center Atrium at 8:30 am to walk over to the park as a group or get there on your own steam. The park is approximately half a mile from the National Housing Center (NHC) and close to the McPherson Square, Farragut North, and Farragut West Metro Stations. Estimated walk time is 10-12 minutes. To get there from NHC, head south on 15th St NW toward M St NW. At I Street (“Eye”) NW, bear right to continue onto Vermont Ave NW. The park will be ahead of you, towards the right.
See Facebook page for more details.
11 am - 12:30 pm
CRYING AT THE NEWS: Uses of Sadness in Poetry & Resistance (Panel)
Audre Lorde writes: "Anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification." Much has been written about the mobilizing power of anger in the face of oppression. But can sadness, too, be a productive mode through which to engage with racism, misogyny, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc.? What place is there for grief and mourning within a poetics of resistance? What new possibilities for witness and provocation might an engagement with sadness open up? Four poets who get sad about the news will discuss how they navigate these and other concerns in their literary and scholarly work.
No F*cks to Give: Women Poets and Dark Humor (Reading)
Comedy has historically been a tool for social change, used to influence those in power and subvert the status quo. But how can humor be used to resist a regime whose leader is described as “satire-proof”? What powers and responsibilities do poetry and stand-up carry in times of political turmoil and repression? What does it mean to have an attitude of “No F*cks” while fighting forces that seek to keep us hopeless and inert? In this lively panel, five women poets will read from work that sits at the intersection of satire, performance, and social critique and that seeks to reclaim and disrupt dehumanizing rhetoric through an unapologetic, fierce poetics. They will discuss the influence of comedy on their craft, specifically the ways humor can upend and challenge systems of oppression. We hope this reading will generate robust discussion and audience participation on creating work that claims our humanity while exposing the absurd ineptitude and cowardly violence of the current regime.
Resiliency in Daunting Times: A Workshop in Yoga & Writing (Workshop)
In times such as these, it’s easy to lose hope, what the writer–activist Rebecca Solnit has called “the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are things we may not know beforehand.” As creative practices, both poetry and yoga can teach us how to be resilient—how to be grounded and optimistic, focus on the bigger picture, learn from failure to change course, reach out to others, and make life-affirming choices filled with integrity and compassion. We will use breathwork, postures, and mindfulness practices, as well as brief readings and prompts, to help us explore our personal relationship to resilience. Note: In this experiential workshop, expect periods of yoga practice interspersed with time for writing. Wear comfortable clothes, bring a mat, your favorite notebook and pen, and an open attitude. Neophytes and seasoned practitioners are most welcome, and if you have specific questions because of an injury or disability, please contact Yael before the workshop at firstname.lastname@example.org
Riding Through Despair (Panel)
We citizens of the twenty-first century are not the first to know suffering, political oppression, and personal anguish, and yet our contemporary world often feels more complex and more threatened than we imagine the past to have been. Members of the panel will explore how they confront the difficulties of their own culture through cross-cultural understanding and literary translation. Through their own experiences, as well as through the lives and writings of poets they have translated, panelists will attempt to convey, among other topics, the possibility of “riding through despair.” Each panelist will make a brief but substantial presentation relating specific questions of translation to the broader issue of cross-cultural understanding using examples including: the status of Chilean poet Raúl Zurita following the 1973 overthrow of the Allende government; interactions between family intimacies and physical geography whether in India, South America, or the United States; the new Chinese poetry emerging near the end of the Cultural Revolution; and responses to the complexity of despair in Valmiki’s Ramayana. All four poets will present, allowing about half an hour for questions and comments from those who attend.
Robots Speak Back!: Asian American Speculative Poetry Reading (Reading)
Recent publications such as Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements have showcased the creative and radical thinking that science fiction could bring to social justice movements. Though less attention has been paid to speculative poetry, there are a growing number of poets dreaming up new strategies to fight white supremacy, gender and economic injustice, colonialism, and ecological devastation. Writing against how Asian bodies are depicted as robots, machines, and reflections of futuristic anxieties in mainstream popular culture, Asian American poets use speculation to conjure alternative futures that re-vision our often-forgotten histories of solidarity and justice-making. This reading will highlight the work of Asian American speculative poets engaged in social justice projects and invite participants to generate their own speculative poems.
This is a Love Story To Me and My People (Workshop)
Writers of color often find themselves conflicted between speaking to our people and conforming to the market controlled by the white gaze. Should we translate or define words from our language? Should we minimize pride and specificity when speaking of our culture? Should we explain our ancestors? How do we balance these elements while maintaining our authentic identity? These questions often limit the truth and power in our work, overshadowing the love for our people and ourselves. In this workshop, writers will explore how to celebrate and emphasize parts of their identity that have been silenced. First, we must know who and what we represent. Then, we need to learn how to show love for that representation. This love story might start in your grandmother’s kitchen, with an inside joke, or on the street two blocks away from tourist attractions. Through writing exercises and discussion focused on writing a unique narrative, writers will discover their own love story. Work by VONA 2017 alumni (authors of the collective poem “This is a Love Story”) will also be shared to highlight different ways to tell a love story and stop conforming to the white gaze.
Tools from the Editor's Desk: A Revision-based Workshop for Poets and Poet-Editors (Workshop)
Editing is an act of love—an effort to help writers find their work's best form and to help readers discover that work. Two editors who work with poets for publication in national literary magazines will offer writers fresh strategies for revising their own work and for offering practical feedback on others' work. With both existing examples and poems written during the workshop, we'll practice using tools from the craft of editing, including the art of querying as well as considerations of syntax, rhetoric, grammar, usage, and more. We'll explore strategies for providing feedback without furthering oppression around class, race, gender, place of origin, and sexuality. We'll discuss ways to engage compassionately, openly, and truthfully with both our own identities and those of the writers we work with. We'll consider the peculiar benefits and challenges of being a poet-editor, as well as ways to get started as an editor for those who wish to explore the field. Writers will leave the workshop with a packet of revision prompts and resources for editing.
Walking Tour: The Rise of DC's Black Intelligentsia (The Dunbars in LeDroit Park)
This tour focuses on two remarkable writers who lived in Washington, DC, in the late 1890s to the early 1900s: Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first nationally-known African American poet, and his wife, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, an accomplished writer of poetry, fiction, and journalism. Both writers were in the first generation removed from slavery. The tour tells the story of their accomplishments, their unhappy marriage, and his early death. It also provides context for their lives in DC, discussing the African American intelligentsia who were drawn to LeDroit Park and the surrounding Shaw neighborhood in the years between the end of the Civil War and World War I. Stops on the tour include the site of the Dunbars’ two homes, homes of eminent neighbors, and other historic sites. Those interested in American literature, Howard University, and the Reconstruction Era will find much here of interest. This tour is recommended for adults only, as a frank discussion of domestic violence will be included. The tour happens rain or shine. Good walking shoes (or other mode of transportation) and bottled water are recommended. There is a great deal of moving and standing; however, the tour path is paved and level
1:30 - 3pm
Choosing Anger: Responding to Injustice with Constructive Rage (Workshop)
“Why are you so angry?” This is often asked when our justifiable anger becomes too uncomfortable for those around us. But anger is not binary: it has degrees of intensity and expression. It is a valuable tool for change and must be maintained creatively and sustainably. This workshop, guided by poet-teacher team Leslieann Hobayan and Rose Strode, will examine ways to shape anger’s burn: banking or building it up; extinguishing it or feeding it. We will use breathing techniques, Buddhist chants, and movement from Kundalini to discover the ways anger moves through our bodies. We will follow this with selections from "Theater Games" by Viola Spolin to explore the ways we physicalize our attitudes. With this awareness, we will read poems by Jaqueline Trimble, Ross Gay, and Ada Limón about the physical experience of anger, and write our own using an in-class exercise inspired by Lynda Barry's “Remembering and Forgetting” exercise. This is not intended to be a self-help workshop: it is a workshop that seeks to develop methods to consciously shape our anger as a force for change - and to give voice to it in our poetry.
Don't You Hear This Hammer Ring? Stories from Split This Rock's Founding (Panel)
Split This Rock’s founders dreamed of a national gathering of activist poets at a time of great despair, when resistance was muted and war seemed endless. Come hear how they put their ears to the ground and heard the subterranean rumble, the great yearning of poets to gather—some who’d been laboring in this work for decades, some who were still in middle school and just learning of the tradition they were to inherit. There was hustling, solidarity, chocolate, and an infamous tale of duct tape! Reminisce with us and tell your own stories of Split This Rock’s early days.
Dreaming America: Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Prison (Workshop)
Poet-activist Seth Michelson works in the most restrictive maximum-security detention center in the U.S. for undocumented, unaccompanied youth. This workshop will create a crucial conversation between attendees and the children in that center. After a brief presentation and discussion on incarcerated immigrant youth in the U.S. in general, Seth will field questions and present an anthology of their writing, Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention (Settlement House, 2017). Proceeds from the anthology go to a legal defense fund for the children, who have no right to representation as stateless people under U.S. law. After hearing the children’s voices, attendees will write back to them. They can write to one or many children, and in any genre or style. Seth will collect and deliver the attendees’ writing to the incarcerated children. The workshop will engage attendees in these children’s complex struggle, which includes self-harm and suicide attempts due to the difficulty of life in isolation cells. The workshop will also grow support for them by informing the public of their struggle and motivating policy changes to immigration laws and attitudes.
Hacking Norms & the Contested BodyMind (Panel)
How does lived experience of disability percolate with race, gender, class, and sexuality to inflect poems? How can poets who resist hegemonic norms use poetry to intervene in oppression? How can poets engaged in such efforts take care of themselves to stay productive and relatively healthy? Six poets who are diverse in terms of age, impairment, race, gender, class, and sexuality will share a poem or two and then discuss these questions. Audience members will be invited to join the discussion.
Islands and Borders: Reimagining the Poetry of the Black Diaspora (Panel)
What does it mean to be a Black poet residing in a region characterized as having a homogeneous population? In 1991, Frank X Walker coined the term Affrilachia to highlight the multicultural spectrum of the Appalachian region and challenge its constructed identity. This panel seeks to honor that legacy by extending it to its natural progression, as Black poets discuss the relationship between poetry and spaces such as Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, Germany, Nebraska, and the Philippines. The panel will begin with a brief reading by the participants.
Poetics in the Wake of Sexual, Gendered, and Inherited Violence (Panel)
Violence on the body acts as a poet: fracturing time and line, splitting the self, encoding itself in our genes for generations to come. How does the poet write back to the trauma that writes her? How can she write through and around the lived or inherited violences that serve as valences in her life and language? Four young poets and writers will discuss their approach to form in the face of the formless, research as reinscription, and therapy in writing about gendered and sexual violence. This panel will also interrogate the language of survivorship, authorship, and authority, and the possibilities of a first-person poetics in the wake.
#RedStateWritersResist: Strategies for Writing and Living in a Red State (Panel)
With border walls, Muslim bans, and cuts in healthcare, education, and environmental protection, what can writers do to resist? This diverse panel of writers will discuss the challenges of writing and living in red states and in red rural areas. These social and eco-justice-oriented writers live in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. They strive to publish multi-genre work rooted in these spaces, while giving voice to issues of women's health, reproductive rights, and immigration and providing accurate representation of marginalized communities, including disabled, queer, trans, and Latinx, among others. Panelists will also facilitate the discussion by intermixing examples of their work in the session. Panelists encourage participants who write and live in red states and in red rural areas to contribute their own resistance and coping strategies. In an effort to trump isolation, participants will also identify resources and network across state lines in an effort we call #RedStateWritersResist. In addition to using their voices and craft for provocation and witness, panelists foster and engage their communities. Examples include a radio program spotlighting creative marginalized voices, migrant youth writers workshops, presentations in classrooms and other public spaces, and forming community partnerships.
3:30 - 5pm
After Tizon & Duterte: Reclaiming Narratives of the Filipinx Diaspora (Panel)
Recently, the Philippines has come under scrutiny because of President Duterte’s drug war and the declaration of martial law. In the United States, Alex Tizon’s essay “My Family’s Slave” also caused a controversy. But the stories and the complexities of the Filipinx Diaspora are nothing new. Fil-American poets, who all represent the diversity of the Filipinx Diaspora, will begin with a brief reading of their work before having a roundtable discussion on the relationship of art to the history and politics of the Philippines. Some of the topics will include: colonialism, imperialism, militarism, family, gender roles, kinship bondage, TransPacific Dissociation, and sexuality. The session will end with a Q&A.
Cultivating Empowerment Through Poetry: Teaching in Shelter Facilities (Workshop)
Poetry has a way of cultivating intimacy, almost immediately, even within a group of strangers. In this workshop we will learn, practice, and discuss a successful teaching model developed to facilitate poetry classes in homeless and battered family shelters. We will learn how to effectively work with administration and staff in shelter organizations to establish ongoing classes and how to maintain a continuum in this type of transient environment. We will look at the way that writing poetry can become an act of empowerment, which is not only healing but often also can name and express elusive emotional experiences. Through guided reading, discussion, and writing practice, participants will become more familiar with the isolation and silencing that accompany trauma, as well as with how the act of reading and/or writing poems together generates empathy, gathers strangers into community, and often alleviates personal isolation. There will be sufficient time for discussion, questions, and instruction based on individual needs.
Mixed Messages: Disrupting Dominant Narratives of Multiracial Identity in 2018 (Workshop)
This interactive workshop will explore the ways in which the multiracial experience has been told through—and influenced by—the lens of whiteness and use counterstories as a tool for analyzing and challenging the accounts of those in power. Majoritarian stories, told by majority groups in a way that justifies their actions and ensures their dominance, include dominant narratives such as a "post-racial" society. These narratives result from an increase in multiracial bodies, encouraging complacency and the belief that racism is an individual rather than an institutionally maintained social problem. Such narratives dismiss the threats that maintain white supremacy, including hate groups, racial profiling, objectification, and monoracism as experienced by multiracial people. This workshop aims to dismantle these narratives through the use of counterstorytelling. Counterstories tell the story of those experiences that have not been told or have been excluded. Through writing prompts and dialogue, participants will reflect on how institutions of whiteness have influenced their life experiences and racial identity development over time. We will explore how counterstories can serve as a tool to disrupt dominant narratives about the mixed experience and ultimately be used to combat racism, particularly in the current racial climate.
Poetry of Praise: Reclaiming Religion and Spirituality for the Resistance (Reading)
In this reading, poets will share writing from varied religious, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds to reclaim religion and find sustenance, healing, and holiness in faith practices and communities. In this time where religion is being used to institute regressive policies, we amplify the good that is inspired by religion, discuss how spiritual practices are vital to many of us who identify as part of the resistance, and highlight how religious practice has historically served this purpose. This session explores the connections between poetry and prayer, between faith and sharing our truths, liberation theology, and the idea of Infinite Sustenance. Together, we will consider how we all harbor holiness, how the Divine and faith enter our work and our poetry, how queer identities find spaces within religious communities, and how racism impacts faith communities.
Radical Traditions: tatiana de la tierra and Gloria Anzaldúa's Poetry (Panel)
Born in Colombia and raised in Miami, FL, tatiana de la tierra was a bilingual and bicultural writer, exploring issues of Latina identity, sexuality, and social activism. As an editor and contributor, de la tierra founded the Latina lesbian publications esto no riene nombre, conmoción, and la telaraña. In 2012, she passed away in Long Beach, CA. Gloria Anzaldúa is now well recognized as a feminist, queer, and cultural theorist. Her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) and her essay, “La Prieta,” are groundbreaking works. With Cherríe Moraga, Anzaldúa co-edited the landmark anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981). Less recognized is Anzaldúa’s poetry. The new collection Imaniman, edited by ire’ne lara silva and Dan Vera, begins new, intensive conversations about Anzaldúa’s poetry. The reissue of tatiana de la tierra’s Para Las Duras: Una Fenomenología Lesbiana/For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology in the Sapphic Classics series returns de la tierra to these conversations. Join us for readings from these two books, discussions of the lives and legacies of Anzaldúa and de la tierra, and reflections on publishing as part of radical literary work.
Sheyr Jangi: Lineages of Survival (Reading)
Poetic duels are found across cultures and times, with vibrant traditions throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Afghan tradition is called “sheyr jangi,” or “poetry fighting,” and has roots in early medieval Central Asian Courts. As poets of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, we pay homage to this tradition—with a twist. With a curated “deck” of classical poems written in Arabic, Persian, Turkic, and Urdu—and our audience’s involvement—we invite our poets to battle these literary ancestors. In this time of increasing Islamophobia and xenophobia, we will enable festival participants to hear poetry from communities directly impacted by current policies, uncover lineages for survival, and discover new ways of integrating poetry into our cultural resistance while honoring ancestors, present struggles, and our brilliant resilience. Poets will share original work, followed by improvisational sheyr jangi in collaboration with the audience. Our talented poets bring expertise as cultural workers engaged in activism, social practice, community dialogue, and mobilizing literary community—all helping provide an urgent and life-affirming participatory reading.
Sick/Disabled Realities: Striving Poetics of Ache, Interdependence & Survival (Panel)
This panel offers a scope of poetic perspectives to engage Sickness, Disability, Chronic Pain, and Mental & Cognitive Disabilities. Disability Justice Collective states: "When we speak of disability, we are celebrating the brilliance and vitality of our imperfect bodies and minds." With this as our guide, we realize ableism is insipid in the U.S. Inaccessibility, heightened violence on Black, Brown, Trans, and Femme bodies, erasure from public space, and the onslaught of threats against our lives including the Trumpcare Bill. All of these demonstrate that our work is even more necessary. We address these and other questions: How does Disability & Chronic Illness inform a poetry process in theory, craft, action, and existence? What ways do we respond to ableism in literary and performance spaces? How do we create poems and art when encumbered with outdated, rigid, and systemic understandings of labor and productivity? What happens when our experiences are no longer sources of inspiration but of self-determination? This session hopes to magnify and celebrate diverse Sick, Spoonie, Mad, and Crazy creation in its plethora of lineage and current practice. We identify poetics as a disabled and justice-based practice to emphasize various Queer, Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Black, Brown, Femme embodiments. Let's uplift non-normative bodies and spirits together!
Sweet, Fraught South: Readings and Incitements to Write from Place (Reading)
Writing that emerges from place can reveal not only the effects of oppression but also the radical joy that can come from attempts to know a landscape well and live in right relation to it. The poets featured in this workshop and reading use diverse formal strategies to write from the Southern places they know, love, and struggle with. They explore ecological vibrancy and decline, historical erasure and resurrection, regional speech and song, gender, and the intersections between environmental and social justice. Each will read from recent work and then offer a prompt designed to inspire writing from place and aid poetic practice. A minibook containing the prompts will be offered to those in attendance, and the session will include time for conversation among readers and audience members about place-based practice
7 – 8:30 pm
FEATURED READING & BOOK SIGNING
Elizabeth Acevedo, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Solmaz Sharif
National Housing Center Auditorium
ASL interpretation provided.
Reading followed by a book signing. Books will be available for sale by Split This Rock partner Busboys & Poets Books. FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
10 pm – 12 am
Speak your peace on the mic! Bring your poem, your song, your enthusiastic attention. Sign-up list available at the door.