Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Narrative and Counter-Narrative in the Streets of Charlottesville: #DefendCville #CvilleStrong

by M. F. Simone Roberts
Poetry & Social Justice Fellow
at Split This Rock


A deep nourishment comes from working daily with poets and their voices, especially the Splitista poets who contribute their work so generously to the world through Split This Rock. These poets are public storytellers, bearers of the cultural memory of America in the twenty-first century, writing the words that arc toward justice. We at Split This Rock are always humbled and grateful for the poetic and social courage of our sibling poets. We lift with you our voices against the fractious and dangerous forces stalking our country and our lives.


White supremacy claims, among other grabby delusions, that only white (nationalist) people have the right to tell the American story. Control over the story of  “who we are” and “what we do,” and the resources that go with that control, are the content of this “white” identity based in a mythical notion of some shared European culture -- as if Europe were not a nearly continual war between peoples who conquered and enslaved each other for 3000 years before globalizing the model in the form of colonialist imperialism.


Our counter-narratives, however, are witness to the deviousness and violence supremacists use to sustain a mediocre, white, racist, heteronormative, and male domination of our institutions and culture. The damage they do is part of what they call “victory” in the false logic of zero-sum identity and a culture of scarcity and deprivation.


But our exposure of their vulgarity is only one danger for them. Our counter-narratives of community, resilience, subversion, and even joy are threats to their insecure, narcissistic ideology.


The poems Split This Rock posted in solidarity with Charlottesville, VA and all who resist these fascist, racist terrorists are clear evidence that it’s our imagination - that one capacity they don’t seem to have -- that threatens them most. The narrative embedded in the name Emancipation Park is open ended, unpredictable. They’re left trembling by our creativity for both methods of subversion and for embodying more just ways of living together. After all, imagining a new reality is the first step in creating a world where we all can thrive, all are honored, all our histories are celebrated.


Our stories reach forward into a future we take pleasure in imagining together. The courage those narratives give us to build a world that loves us has spurred our peoples to a long history of demonstrating the physical courage required to succeed. We testify to our resolute claims to exist, to thrive, to love each other. And that -- our pursuit of genuine community-- drives them into a curated rage and calculated acts of violence.


Charlottesville, Virginia, became a symbolic and real battleground for these terrorist groups because the community dared to take back control of its narrative and write one that owned up to the evil of the Antebellum and Confederate culture and economy of enslavement, one that would create more space to honor all the city’s people.


Putting history in its place, the elected members of the city council renamed Lee Park to Emancipation Park, and proposed to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a symbol of confederate revolt against the Republic and of deliberate racist terror that continues, unabated from the founding of this nation to this violent and murderous weekend in August, 2017. For their vision, the people of Charlottesville were targeted for punishment.


The hate groups and the militias guarding them fully intend to continue their work, their “rallies,” and their plans “to take back” this country and punish all who oppose them. And for now, they have a president with a cabinet of advisers who openly support their hate, their violence, and their wholly fabricated reading of history and human nature. As of this weekend, thanks to a campaign ad and yet another violent tweet, the president has declared the majority of the American people his enemies.


This terrorist rally in Charlottesville is of a piece with police violence in communities of color, the school-to-prison pipeline, the logic of for-profit prisons, redlining and fraudulent lending practices, bans on refugee acceptance and immigration for Muslim people, threats to established rights of LGBTQ people, the hocus pocus of evolutionary psychology and legislative attacks on women’s physical autonomy, the droning refrain of their tired, but deadly serious, anti-Semitism. It is of a piece with the abuses demanded by neoliberal capitalism, and permissions given in rape culture.


The white supremacists at that rally were speaking specifically in favor of these practices, from the calls for the eradication of peoples to support for “a free market” to the disparagement of the activist Heather Heyer, murdered by one of their number, in some of sexism’s cruelest terms. There is no ideological gap here; these are gears that grind together to close borders, raise walls, and intimidate opposition.


But there are more of us than them, by tens of millions. Among our numbers are some of the most inventive and imaginative people in the world. We are poets, we are visionaries and advocates, we are certain of the justice of our causes. Let’s embolden each other through our poetry -- sublime and terrible as we must write it.


Let them shake.


***
My thanks to Sarah Browning and Camisha Jones for help editing and some excellent suggestions. We make each other better.


***


M. F. Simone Roberts is the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow for Split This Rock. Roberts is an independent scholar of poetics and feminist phenomenology, a poet, editor, and activist. She is co-editor of the anthology Iris Murdoch and the Moral Imagination: Essays and author of the critical monograph A Poetics of Being-Two: Irigaray's Ethics and Post-Symbolist  Poetics. Her poems are coming soon to a journal near you. Descendant of both aristocrats and serfs, she adventures this world with her consort, Adam Silverman.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Statement by Split This Rock in Solidarity with Charlottesville and All Those Working to End White Supremacy


At Split This Rock we are heartsick at the murder and other violence committed by white supremacist nationalists over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. We know these actions are of a piece with our nation’s long bloody history of genocide and exploitation. And we know that one of the powerful tools of repression is silencing, in this case insisting that the American story is the story of whiteness.

As ever, poets are rewriting that narrative.

The poets of the Split This Rock community come from the groups white supremacists aim to silence, dominate, or destroy outright: we are queer, we are people of color, we are people with disabilities, we are women, we are people of many faiths and no faith, we are white allies, and we are progressives. 

We are powerful visionaries and chroniclers, we are fierce advocates and activists. Split This Rock poets have long offered necessary poetic witness of, and protest against, both the oppression advocated by racist and anti-Semitic neo-Nazis and their ilk and the harm we suffer at the hands of racist institutions.

In this terrible moment, in support of all who seek a world free of hatred and oppression, we offer selected poems from The Quarry, excerpted below, in praise of resistance and social justice movements -- tinged with hurt, hope, and joy -- reminders of our communities’ resilience. 

Black and white image of people holding up candles and lit cell phones at a vigil at the Lee statue in Charlottesville Virginia. Photo by Eze Amos
Photo by Eze Amos: ezeamosphotography.com
We offer these poems to nourish liberation and justice movements and to sustain you, the brave Americans who join them and lead them. We offer these poems as a call to renew and deepen -- yet again -- our commitments to each other and to our claims to the American story.

Should you want them as well, The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database is also home to many powerful poems that address themes of racism, violence, police brutality, and the several intersecting injustices that affect our communities and our earth. We offer too the YouTube channels of Split This Rock and the DC Youth Slam Team, where you’ll find performances of striking power and beauty. Please feel free to share all these resources.

Solidarity events are everywhere this week. Find one near you at the website of Indivisible. You can organize your own and register it on their website as well. Bring a poem to read – one offered below or one of your own or any that speaks the grief, power, and resilience you seek and find in speaking out and acting against injustice. Jewish Voice for Peace lists several places to donate on their website. 

With poetry on our lips and our fists in the air,
Split This Rock

***

Poems in Solidarity With Charlottesville from The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

NOTE: In most cases these are excerpts. To read the full poem and to learn more about the poet, please click on the link below the excerpt.



Vox Populi for the Marooned     

By Vincent Toro

We will break nothing when we leave, bind ourselves like cloth around
a fevered chest, float across plazas like a warm sponge over a sore shin,
and become a shameless shore of sin carousing, a flesh tinted mandala

of static bribing the sky with the promise that we will gather here each
day until fear is in need of hospice. And we will come bearing incense
and peach pie. And whenever the wounds of injustice are salted in our

favelas we will gather again in the squares of Tiananmen and Taksim,
of Tahrir and Trafalgar, of Bolivar and Union. Like barnacles or fluorescent
algae, we will gather… we will gather… we will gather…

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/vox-populi-for-the-marooned


YOU ARE WHO I LOVE    
By Aracelis Girmay

You protecting the river   You are who I love
delivering babies, nursing the sick

You with henna on your feet and a gold star in your nose

You taking your medicine, reading the magazines

You looking into the faces of young people as they pass, smiling and saying, Alright! which, they know it, means I see you, Family. I love you. Keep on.

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/you-are-who-i-love


Our Movable Mecca

By Danez Smith

    we who were born into conundrum, came into the world as the world was leaving, children of the ozone, the oppressed, the overlooked, of obtuse greed, of oil overlords, of oblong definitions of justice

    who asked for water & were given a border, a wall in the ocean, a wall in the air, a wall right down the middle of our bodies, bodies left to sun dry, bodies
told they were barely bodies, bodies emptied of blood & rights, bodies whispered into rumor

    who were hungry & were given a cell to hunger in & sometimes saw our own flesh transfigured into prisons, running in circles trying to escape ourselves

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/our-movable-mecca


Declaration of Inter-Dependence
By Richard Blanco

We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…

We’re the living who light vigil candles and the cop who didn’t shoot. We’re the inmate with his volunteer teacher diagraming sentences, the Buddhist alongside the stockbroker serving soup at a shelter. We’re the grandfather taking a selfie with his grandson and his husband, the widow’s fifty cents in the collection plate and the golfer’s ten-thousand-dollar pledge for a cure.
We hold these truths to be self-evident…
We’re them. They’re you. You’re me. We’re us: a handshake, a smile good morning on the bus, a door held open, a seat we give up on the subway. We tend restrooms or sell art, make huevos rancheros or herbed salmon, run for mayor or restock shelves, work a backhoe or write poems. We’re a poem in progress.
http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/declaration-of-inter-dependence


Ode To What We Make
By Kathy Engel

and praise the longed for moon
casting the night, the heaving rain,
its wet coat, praise each alphabet’s
lonely letter clamoring for light,
resisting the end of memory, the
end of touch, each cell and clot
still alive in any language,
still gorgeous, to be invented,
praise the clumsiness of this
word sharpening its animal teeth
for the love of the cub.

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/ode-to-what-we-make


‘I am broken by the revolt exploding inside me’
By Minal Hajratwala

Your rage is the fulcrum of your desire, chimaerae busting out of cages, heart-sparks flying. Your rage gets shit done & it is no joke. Your rage is the luminous gold truth of sunrise, what you sit with long enough to dissolve your fear. Your rage is a checkmate to your compromise. Your rage is heat from a magnifying glass, focused, bursting into flame.

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/i-am-broken-by-the-revolt


Til the Taste of Free in Our Mouths (Brown Baby
Lullaby)

By Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes

      Wake baby, wake child, this lullaby will break the cage

You will taste the blood of your brothers in our milk, remembering

their glorious beauty as it warms your throat, you will

not know the cold of the concrete that swallowed them whole.

We are a swarm, a pride, a righteous and thick army

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/til-the-taste-of-free


Stand
By Ruth Forman

why so afraid to stand up?
someone will tell you
sit down?

but here is the truth

someone will always tell you
sit down

the ones we remember
kept standing

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/stand


Hold
By Gowri Koneswaran

hold hands when
they come calling,
when they threaten,
"this is necessary to
teach you a lesson" or
"this is necessary
to protect you"

hold hands when we stand still,
when we walk, when
we run
when they tell us to
surrender
when they tell us
to do anything

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/hold


The World We Want Is Us
By Alice Walker

It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of "aha!"
shining, finally, in
so many
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
each other

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/the-world-we-want-is-us


from Say Yes
By Andrea Gibson

‘cause tonight Saturn is on his knees
proposing with all of his ten thousand rings
that whatever song we’ve been singing we sing even more.
The world needs us right now more than it ever has before.
Pull all your strings.
Play every chord.

http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/from-say-yes

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

11 Poems for Care


We're fighting for health care and we know you are too! Poetry, in fact, is relevant everywhere, including policy debates. As the administration and majority party seek to reverse the progress made, and to remove the protections given Americans by “Obamacare,” Split This Rock offers 11 poems on matters related to health and health care.

When we searched our collection for poems that witness on health or illness, to respond to the current fiasco of dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we found most of the poems on this theme are by women. Fitting, since the current Senate bill never once mentions women. The poems range in subject from families living with a son’s mental illness, to the way chronic pain can govern a life, to how our veterans need the care our government might soon eliminate - unless we fight!

We hope you will find inspiration for your advocacy work as you resist the draconian and mean-spirited reforms currently under consideration. You might not only read these poems, but use them:

      to help keep yourself grounded
     to open meetings
     to share among discussion groups, inspire others
     to email to representatives to inspire them to keep working for the health and safety of the people
     or to email to those who need a reminder of just how much our health is a matter of luck, or class, or gender, or war.


We offer excerpts of these poems, below, for your hearts and your courage. Click on the title to read the full poem.

For more poems related to matters of health, its economics, and the effects of care, please visit  The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.  


As I Pay Forty Dollars

By Susan Eisenberg

for my asthma inhaler that
last year cost fifteen
I pause     for the mom

whose young son will forget
his inhaler / on the bus /
at his friend’s house /
in the park / at the game /
maybe in his school locker /
somewhere-I-dunno;

Test for Cognitive Function

By Hermine Pinson

Mother
Slipper
July
“I will ask you to recall these words
at the end of our session”

Depression Insists We Stay In

By Katy Richey

You do look fat in those pants,
probably gained twenty pounds
in the last thirty minutes. There’s no parking
within ten blocks of the party.
All the people you hate are already there.
They’re miserable too, but tonight
you won’t be able to tell. They’ll have
green string tied around their middle fingers
and you’re supposed to know why.

A Car, A Man, A Maraca


By Charlie Bondhus

At the mirror I heft
elbows, belly, cock,
say hematocrit—44.3; hemoglobin—15.2;
neutrophils—62; monocytes—5.



And Still They Come (for Dr. Sue)


By Gordon Cash

… You make war
On us, ignore or call collateral
The pain and blood of woman-damage left
In all your battles' wakes.  And still they come.
The patients come, each seeking her own peace.


By Sheila Black
The brace was metal, and it fastened around the ankles.
Outside in the street there was the beggar with elephantiasis; there was
the leper, the neighbor with eyes milky blind,

and in the book the child with the hand reaching out for the water.
Everyone spoke in code, everyone lied. There were the

invisible hospitals. There were the poor who could be scattered
like lice.


Dick Cheney’s New Heart Speaks

By Melissa Tuckey

A roadside bomb is planted in every chest

I was a pea sized fist in the dirt of a man
who had half your brains
but he was good




By Elizabeth Acevedo

 … Rob, I am splintered, drawn blood.
We both know how to slip medicine into milk, how to gift
each other with our backs. The hundred kinds of get out
someone can backhand against a name, take them all, palmed,
opened, don't be afraid that I'll ever try to walk through this door,
because the surface against my cheek is the only comfort you've shown
me in years.


Oceanside, CA

By Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Balancing on crutches in the shallows
near her mother, a girl missing her right lower leg
swings her body and falls, laughing.

    

Ode to the Chronically Ill Body

By Camisha Jones

This body       is lightning
     Strikes the same place      more than twice

This body       is a fist                         pounding its own hand
This body       crumples like paper
           I crumple     like paper           because of this body
This body       just wants        and wants         and wants


from Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography

By Jennifer Bartlett

based on a series of neat errors
          falling and catching

to thrust forward

sometimes the body misses
then collapses

sometimes
it shatters

with this particular knowledge

a movement spastic
                       and unwieldy

is its own lyric


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Quarry's 10 Most Viewed Poems of 2016



As The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database turns two years old, we’re thrilled to reflect on trends related to The Quarry’s use and share the top 10 poems most viewed in 2016. From its inception until December 31, 2016, The Quarry was viewed 106, 607 times. That’s over 3 times as many visits as reported last year in August. 

We hear of the poems being used by teachers in classrooms, for writing workshops, in vigils, performances, worship services, and more! The poems are traveling the country and the world with their witness and their provocation, their mourning, their love. 

We look forward to creatively expanding The Quarry’s reach even further, so it continues to function not only as a repository of excellent poetry, but as an active tool for those who seek to make justice present in our time. Towards that end, we’d love to hear ways you’ve used it – for organizing, teaching, worship, reflection. Email your story to info@splitthisrock.org.

We offer you the 10 poems in The Quarry most viewed in 2016, as inspiration to fuel further action. We celebrate the fact that all ten poems are by poets of color, as is the most viewed poem in The Quarry from its inception in June, 2015 to December 31, 2016: Ross Gay’s “A Small Needful Fact.

You’ll see some familiar titles on this year’s list if you compare it with one we posted in 2016. In honor of The Quarry turning one, we posted a list last year of the poems most often viewed in its first year, which spanned two years. This year’s list offers a spotlight for poems most viewed and published in 2016. We'll be tracking numbers by calendar year from now on.

About the Most Viewed Poems of 2016

The poems readers turned to most often in 2016 were poems that addressed the dangers our communities face with tremendous compassion, with tenderness, with fierce insistence on staying alive. In 2016, you visited these poems in The Quarry 10,678 times!

The 2016 list tells us readers have been thinking about the complex ways our genders are perceived, how our sexualities are too often policed, about the longing and anger inspired by America’s demands for assimilation, the ways that white supremacists impose and do violence. But these poems all share another theme: they testify to the resilience and resistance of our communities, to their generous and unrelenting imagination. 

Through the top 10 poems and the readers who have given them their care and attention, we know that the trouble roving the land now is not new, is not unique, is not even terribly original in its dreams and tactics. Even its courage, its aggression is not new. It is the same trouble that social justice work has always challenged and imagined a way beyond. 

But, many people in this country find themselves newly attuned to this old, destructive trouble. It is not only these newly "woke" citizens who feel the pressure, the weird loneliness of living in this trouble and finding the courage to act for the good. 

Hannah Arendt taught us that the one greatest tool of totalitarian regimes is isolation and its effect is loneliness. Even in this totally connected age, it's possible to feel (again, and again) abandoned, cornered, isolated. Poetry and poets have long sung to us the truth, and the truth told with clarity dispels that loneliness in each stanza.

The most-viewed poems of 2016 serve as a cure for that oppressive loneliness. Those who hope for our surrender will find, as we do in each of these poems, that they are wrong. We are powerful, and courageous, and we see each other.

Let us revel in these 10 most viewed poems of 2016 from The Quarry (beginning with the most viewed poem of 2016):


  1. How To Enjoy Your Vacation To A Country That Says It Won The War by Gowri Koneswaran
  2. I Don't Know Any Longer Why the Flags Are At Half-Staff by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
  3. america by Fatimah Asghar
  4. Your Rapist is on Paid Administrative Leave by Tafisha A. Edwards
  5. The Transkid Explains Gentrification, Explains Themselves by Taylor Johnson
  6. There Is a Lake Here by Clint Smith
  7. origin stories (reprise) by Safia Elhillo
  8. The Hour Dylann Roof Sat In The Church by Denice Frohman
  9. #flyingwhileblack by Imani Cezanne
  10. Too Pretty by Sunu P. Chandy


* * * * * *

Image of Simone Roberts. She has light skin, red hair with big loose curse and looks directly toward the camera with a neutral expression on her face.
M. F. Simone Roberts is the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow for Split This Rock where she co-curates and manages The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. Roberts is an independent scholar of poetics and feminist phenomenology, a poet, editor, and activist. She is co-editor of the anthology Iris Murdoch and the Moral Imagination: Essays and author of the critical monograph A Poetics of Being-Two: Irigaray's Ethics and Post-Symbolist  Poetics. Her poems are coming soon to a journal near you. Descendant of both aristocrats and serfs, she adventures this world with her consort, Adam Silverman.


x

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ten Ways to Support Split This Rock

Image of audience members holding hands at Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock has been a people's movement since its founding in 2008. Sustained by the community's call for a permanent home for progressive poetry, together we have engaged poetry as an agent of change, speaking up for peace, elevating the voices of the disenfranchised, and using poetry to call forth the just community we wish to see. 

June Jordan's words ring true when reflecting on Split This Rock's history and accomplishments: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

As we head towards the end of Split This Rock's fiscal year, in a society fraught with turmoil and with the future of arts funding uncertain, the need for continued solidarity is crucial. 

Our goal is to raise $5,000 by June 30 and with your help -- financial and otherwise -- we know this goal is in reach. We're halfway there! If you believe in the work of this organization, there are so many ways to show your support and help equip us to enter our next fiscal year, marking Split This Rock's 10th anniversary, strong. We offer 10 suggestions below. 

* * * * *


1. Repost, Share, Shout Us Out! Moved by a Poem of the Week? Share it on your social media and encourage people to sign up to receive our emails. Excited about the DC Youth Slam Team? Invite friends to attend its next event. Love the new Split This Rock merchandise? Point people to the website. Let others know what moves you about Split This Rock and that the organization is worth their time and investment.

Youth at DC Youth Slam Team Finals huddled up
2. Attend David v. Goliath on Tuesday, June 27, 9-11 am at Busboys and Poets - Brookland! Split This Rock’s DC Youth Slam Team goes up against the adults of the Beltway Poetry Slam team in a fundraiser to send both teams to their national slams. It’s a night of fun competition you won’t want to miss! Tickets are on sale for $10 at Eventbrite.
    Image of Ushindi Performance Tribe members3. Hire Poets! Split This Rock’s Ushindi Performance Tribe, composed of dynamic DC Youth Slam Team alumni, is available for performances, workshops, and other engagements. We promise they’ll blow you away! Just ask the folks at the opening of The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Kennedy Center, Poetry Out Loud national finals, and all the other places they’ve shared their talents. For details, send an email to slam@splitthisrock.org  
    Image of a Split This Rock house party. People sit in a living room facing a poet sharing a poem.4. Host a Fundraising Event and/or Donate Signed Copies of Your Book! Help us widen the Split This Rock network by hosting a house party, reading, or other fundraising event. You supply space and refreshments and invite your friends. We'll provide poetry and info about Split This Rock. If you’re a poet, send us a signed copy of your book (or a few!) to sell at one of these special events or to offer as a perk for fundraising campaigns.

    5. Connect Split This Rock Poets & Poetry to Activist Circles! Encourage activist friends and groups to incorporate poetry of provocation and witness into their work for social change. Let them know about The Quarry online social justice poetry database and Split This Rock as a resource.

    6. Get Creative with Your Giving! Gayle Brandeis donated $5 for every pre-order she received for her latest chapbook. Be like Gayle and get out of the box! What can you do to encourage others to give? What other resources or talents could you contribute? Visit the wish list on Split This Rock's website to see if it sparks an idea.

    7. Give the Gift of SkyMiles! Help us send youth to Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival and bring featured poets to Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2018 and other events.

    8. Help Secure Venues for Split This Rock Poetry Festival and other events! DC venues are costly and hard to find. But poetry deserves beautiful spaces! Help us find donated or discounted venues. Festival sponsorship opportunities are also now available. Visit Split This Rock's website for details.

    9. Volunteer! It’s festival planning season! And 2018 will be full of 10th Anniversary activities! Though Split This Rock's reach has expanded dramatically over the last ten years, we remain a small organization internally and simply could not pull off the festival and other major events without a strong crew of volunteers. Check out the festival leadership roles on the website! Volunteer positions are always available!

    Image of crowd at Free Speech vigil10. Donate! Your donations send the DC Youth Slam Team to Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam 2017 in California, support 2018 festival costs such venue rental, event mobile app fees, featured poet stipends, and the like, bolster efforts to make Split This Rock programming accessible to all, and so much more! Visit Split This Rock's website to read further about what your gift can do or to give online!

    And there are so many other ways to help! Reach out to us if you'd like to assist in any of these ways or explore other options at 202-787-5210 or info@splitthisrock.org. We'd love to hear from you!