Washington, D.C. — Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness comes to the historic U Street neighborhood of Washington, D.C., March 10-13, 2010. Poets, artists, social justice activists, and community organizers from across the area and the nation will take to the stages and streets of the capital to celebrate poetry as an agent of social change.
Split This Rock Poetry Festival offers a diverse mix of programs, including poetry readings every evening on the main stage at Bell Multicultural High School, workshops and panel discussions about the intersection of poetry and social change, a book fair, films, youth programming, parties, and activism.
As the country continues to grapple with two wars, the economic crisis, and social and environmental ills, Split This Rock offers participants opportunities to speak out, make common cause, and explore the many ways poets are working for change through their writing, activism, and community work. Co-Director Sarah Browning said, “At times of crisis, poetry that looks directly at our world and struggles to understand, to bridge differences, to imagine other possibilities than those endlessly repeated by politicians and pundits is more important than ever.”
A new feature is a free Social Change Book Fair. On Saturday, March 13, at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage (1816 12th St. NW), festival participants and members of the public can explore progressive presses, literary magazines, independent newspapers, and social justice and literary organizations. Other free events during the festival include a youth poetry open mic and the final round of competition for the D.C. Youth Slam Team, the teen poetry group that will go on to compete at the national slam competition in Los Angeles in June.
As the country reaches the milestone of $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, festival participants will engage in peaceful action and use poetry to speak to those in power. A “public poem,” to be spontaneously created at a federal government site on the afternoon of Thursday, March 11, will imagine what the next $1 trillion could — and should — be spent on. “Based in our nation’s capital, Split This Rock provides opportunities for all who gather to speak out for a more just ordering of our nation’s priorities,” Browning said.
Split This Rock was incorporated in Washington, D.C., as a nonprofit organization in 2009. The biennial festival is just one part of Split This Rock’s larger mission. “All Split This Rock’s programs are designed to integrate poetry of provocation and witness into public life and to support the poets who are writing this vital work,” Browning said. “We collaborate with community and social change organizations, organize public events such as the festival, readings and forums, sponsor contests to promote socially engaged poetry, and provide workshops on craft and the writing life for youth and adult poets.”
Featured poets are Chris Abani, Lillian Allen, Sinan Antoon, Francisco Aragón, Jan Beatty, Martha Collins, Cornelius Eady, Martín Espada, Andrea Gibson, Allison Hedge Coke, Natalie Illum, Fady Joudah, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Richard McCann, Jeffrey McDaniel, Lenelle Moïse, Nancy Morejón, Mark Nowak, Wang Ping, Patricia Smith, Arthur Sze, Quincy Troupe, and Bruce Weigl. Biographies, photos, sample poems, and interviews are available upon request.
Major contributors to the festival are Busboys and Poets, the Institute for Policy Studies, DC Poets Against the War, and Teaching for Change.