Thursday, August 25, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Richard Krawiec

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 


***

Changing Diapers
by Richard Krawiec
A mother stretches her child on cold bricks between two lines of rails under gray skies to change her diaper while some man snaps a photo with his phone, and behind them black-jacketed policemen stand in a blur of No to keep the others off the tracks. At another border, a woman places her infant on a scatter of prickly straw beneath a thin patch of shade cast by one small tree in a landscape of heat-white skies. Her back is turned away from the dog, bloated by death, lying atop a scatter of empty water bottles. On a rain-damp crinkle of Fall leaves, a mother takes her last diaper, washed in a puddle, wrung out as best as two human hands can twist moisture from cloth in the rain. Her baby’s skin, bomb-flare red, is cratered with pus-yellow ulcers. She must coo to choke her crying as she wraps, gently as possible, her child’s inflamed skin with this slap of dampness, necessary torture to allow them to join the human train again.

Friday, August 19, 2016

THE QUARRY Turns One: Reflections & Top 20 Poems

A poem moves through a constant cycle of renewal. Each time a reader flips to it in the pages of an anthology, each time an artist shares it to her social media feed, it is born again, as new eyes, new pasts, and new souls imbue it with a new life.

A little over a year ago, Split This Rock took a major step in answering a pressing question. Since 2009, we had collected poems from our festivals, our contests, and our Poem of the Week series. These poems, in particular, demanded attention; they bore witness to injustice and, in doing so, were written to provoke transformative change within our society. How to ensure that they did not lie fallow? How to move their artists’ messages into disparate settings and different struggles, yielding dynamic interpretations that would inspire others to resist oppression?



photo of The Quarry website featuring collage of 6 poets included in poetry database
The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database was our response. An ever-expanding central hub of over 350 poems, searchable not only by name, but by theme, language, geography, and poet identity. Designed to bring poetry fully to the center of public life, we had high hopes for how The Quarry would be used. A church group struggling with community poverty, a Black Lives Matter organizer seeking strength, a transitioning adolescent wrestling with isolation, could utilize the poems collected in The Quarry for inspiration, for solidarity, for solace. 

The Quarry’s launch received a warm reception. Split This Rock held an amazing party! An article by The Washington Post highlighted ways to use the The Quarry as a tool. The Poetry Foundation directed readers to the site. Tweetspeaks named The Quarry one of its top ten poetry picks. Poets.org integrated poems from The Quarry into their website, pointing their readers back to Split This Rock’s website for the original. Still today, new people tweet love to us having just discovered the database or a new poem they adore. And if that weren’t enough, we’ve had the pleasure of nominating poems from The Quarry for awards with the happy result of Rachel Eliza Griffith’s Elegy being selected for the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology.

As we head into The Quarry’s second year, we checked to see what poems have been viewed most. And after falling in love with them all over again, we decided to post them below. Of the 34,728 views to all the poems in The Quarry since it went live on June 24, 2015, these 20 poems have garnered a combined 10,049 page views (and counting)!

Of the top 20, two poems have not only been viewed most in The Quarry, but are also the top two poems viewed at Split This Rock’s blog, Blog This Rock, where we posted poems before the birth of The Quarry. Ross Gay’s A Small Needful Fact, the most viewed poem on both the blog and in The Quarry, has been viewed 21,640 times combined! Danez Smith’s not an elegy for Mike Brown, the 2nd most visited poem on the blog, has had a total of 19,980 views! Written in response to the killings of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, respectively, both allow us room for grief, for rage, for reason to act. This is the work poems can do and we return to them because mournfully these are the times we need them most.

We look forward to expanding The Quarry’s reach, introducing new ways in which it can continue 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 The Quarry – for organizing, teaching, worship, reflection. Email your story to us at info@splitthisrock.org

And now, we proudly introduce the Top 20 Poems in The Quarry! We hope that the poems below serve as a gateway to hundreds more, that you become lost for hours (or days!) in The Quarry, searching by title, author, identity, and theme, and that you pass on to your friends in struggle those poems that mean the most to you. And most importantly, may these poems offer you inspiration and fire in your efforts building a better world. Happy reading!


Top 20 Poems Viewed Most at The Quarry
As of August 18, 2016

  1. A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay
  2. america by Fatimah Asghar
  3. Your Rapist is on Paid Administrative Leave by Tafisha A. Edwards
  4. Ode to the Chronically Ill Body by Camisha Jones
  5. What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver by Geffrey Davis
  6. The Transkid Explains Gentrification, Explains Themselves by Taylor Johnson
  7. For the City that Nearly Broke Me by Reginald Dwayne Betts 
  8. Photo Albums by Fatimah Asghar
  9. The Last New Year's Resolution by Kazumi Chin
  10. The Newer Colossus by Karen Finneyfrock
  11. The Opposite of Holding in Breath-- by Hari Alluri
  12. not an elegy for Mike Brown by Danez Smith
  13. Leaving My Childhood Home by Zeina Azzam
  14. Dear American Poetry, by Jan Beatty
  15. Too Pretty by Sunu P. Chandy
  16. dear America by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
  17. WITNESS by Ariana Brown
  18. #flyingwhileblack by Imani Cezanne
  19. Faith by Tim Seibles
  20. Pomegranate Means Grenade by Jamaal May

Gratitude to Eric Eikenberry, Split This Rock Poetry Database Intern, as lead writer for this article. Continued gratitude as well to Split This Rock's Poetry & Social Justice Fellow Simone Roberts for her constant care & effort setting up and maintaining "The Quarry." 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Ameena kg


If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 


***

FOR THEM
by Ameena kg

For the kids with stone as their weapon,
The sky as their roof;
Bloodshed a daily occurrence,
Freedom to live besieged;
For the kids whose tears fall unnoticed,
Voices hoarse from cries;
Struck from every angle,
Their innocence dimming.

For the mother who buries lifeless bodies,
Of children she’s outliving;
One whose milk has dried from hunger,
While her newborn is weeping;
For the ones who dread the sun at daybreak,
For the onslaught it brings forth;
I say, is it worth it fighting-
The ones with stone as their weapon.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Catherine Keefe

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 

***

Grandmothers' Lemon Bread
by Catherine Keefe

We are better than this. This black body gunned down, this hate speech so juicy they spit when they speak, is not even close to the best we can be. We are not their worst. Watch. Watch us will our best selves out of our skin like ripe fruit out of roughened drought-stricken bark, reaching growth so fast we won't even look back. Look, look into the eyes that return your gaze. Your eyes. Your face. Your hopes. Your love for this world and its messy, tired, hopeless people who sometimes forget that the easiest thing to do is to love. To love. To love is how we are better than this. To bake lemon bread with fruit from the tree blooming this summer in spite of it all, and to squeeze every last drop of sour juice from that bumpy ass rind, to beat in sugar, to whip in flour and leavening and two eggs which signify new life and settle thin, sweet batter into flimsy foil hope. We wait like we are baking some new kind of world. We are better than this when we walk next door, wafting the scent of kindness before us and with our two kind hands we pass the gift of bread. Only do this to a stranger, the neighbor you've not yet spoken to, the one you think is odd, or off, or so different from you that you don't need to ever say hello. Say hello. Say, I see you neighbor. Say I see you and maybe you're hungry and tired and want someone to hand you something sweet that reminds you of your grandmother from the middle of nowhere. Say here is this bread, let's break together, for when we are better than this it will be like this, licking sweet crumbs off our fingers with someone whose name we just learned is the same as our father's great aunt who came over on some boat we don't know the name of and we'll laugh at what are the odds? What is the food of your grandmother? Ask this. Ask about what she wanted most in life. Know she expected the best from you. Know she knew we would be better than this. Know that she was never, ever wrong.

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Laura Ann Tull

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 

***

For the Silence
by Laura Ann Tull

For the silence where there is no sound.
When it is so quiet only the heartbeat resounds.
For the end of senseless violence and hate
when we stop living in the rat race.
For too many have died and to many are in pain.
Why can't we just find ways to relate?
Why can't we behave like a civilized race?
Stop living in the jungle and acting like apes.
Wait we don't do that?
Apes may be big and strong .
But they are not know for killing anyone.
We have a gift animals do not seem to possess.
We can talk and communicate dress up with our best.
Yet somehow we often forget what we need
Is human contact and a little tenderness,
Not primal or violent or vile greed.
We seem to express we are a better race
Yet what we do to each other and animals
Would probably make us look bad if animals could talk to their friends.
For the silence where there is no sound.
When it is so quiet only the heartbeat resounds.
For the end of senseless violence and hate
When we stop living in the rat race.
Too many have died and to many are in pain
We can be like two little animal friends
Sharing our food and our space.
Respecting each other.
Accepting each other.
Loving each other .
Please stop the noise Bang! Bang!
Let there be the silence of a loving peace.

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Semein Washington

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 

***

Enmity as it Stands
by Semein Washington

Bullets trip through dancers' chests
and a truck mows down revelers in the street
and two men were shot by policemen for nothing
and five policemen were shot by a soldier.
Now my breath just sours in my lungs;
Now my heart just tumbles blood.

Wherever I look, I see blood,
hear of blood, of stopped hearts in chests
and wonder if I hold their truth too in many lungs.
I wonder if the blood's enough for Turkish soldiers,
if it's enough to warrant terror in the streets.
I say it all achieves nothing, turns human life to nothing.

I try to hold in names but I feel that also comes to nothing.
I cannot hold much more than blood
and I see it running in most any given street.
There is a new war everyday against nothing with soldiers
trained in hatred. This is more I can't hold in my chest;
this is more that just stings in my lungs.

I hope there's still function in my lungs,
that they can deflate, inflate. It is the sweetest nothing
I can give. It is the best gift of my chest.
I wish it could give back the lives lost. I wish the soldiers
would hold back. I wish they'd spill not one more drop of blood.
I wish most anyone could safely walk the streets.

Yet I doubt more everyday that I'll walk safely down the streets.
I hold the doubt more firmly in my lungs
than I do hope but let the hope flow in my blood.
I'll let it blossom there. I'll wish for soldiers
trained in peace. I'll wish it comes to more than nothing.
I'll wish love blossoms in their chests.

I'll wish this forces all hate from their chests.
I'll wish it causes no more terror in the streets.
I'll wish it comes to more than nothing.
No more terrorists to pass themselves as soldiers
or soldiers with a cause that isn't peace. I'll hold this in my lungs;
I'll only let this in my blood.

Poems that Speak Out Against Violence and for Embrace - Malcolm Towler

If the back & arms you carry riddle with black
spots & marks made by birds who don’t want us here—
I will remind you: There are people who did this before us,
brown & black-spotted, yellow, with rattails,
born from what others did not want & loathed & aimed
to never let belong, & so, we are here today—
the field is wide. We make saliva from root & light.
Our spikelets grow, & do you feel the wind?
       - Joe Jiménez, Smutgrass



Orlando. Dhaka. Istanbul. Baghdad. Medina. Nice. The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This summer, terrible bigotry and violence have rent our global community. The killings must end, and we in the poetry community must contribute in any way we can. As we search for answers to these horrors and for ways to combat hatred and prejudice, we are reminded of poetry’s capacity to respond to violence, to help us regenerate, like spikelets sprouting in a contested field, claiming our public spaces for everyone.

In solidarity with all those targeted at home and abroad, from the LGBT community in the United States to devastated families of Baghdad, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, from July 14 to 28, we are requesting poems in response to and against violence toward marginalized communities. After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to Congress and the National Rifle Association. 

***

Letter to a drunk welterweight
by Malcolm Towler

Cracked lips remind me of mirrors shattered with fists. Waiting for the Chapstick to heal
them which proves someone loves them little tubes of moisturizing renewable love 1.79
at a time her lips are addicted to feeling cared for. And her eyes are used to cold peas that
never see the soup they were bought for. She just wants to be fought for. Lost a lot for.
Not on the floor. Seeing how old the wood in the floor is up close while my spirit drains
into it. This porous oak didn't sprout to get cut down much less make an unintentional
mop for her bodily fluids because she isn't who you want her to be. Not the models
whose flawless pictures and videos gave you erections harder than being consistent, no.
She is average with a heart of gold that's found a section for your existence that
rationalizes your persistence in beating her. Loving your cracked mirror soul trying to put
adhesive in the wounds and trying to ignore the cuts she suffers at her own hands.
Because she beats herself inside while you batter her outside trying to understand trying
to comprehend why she isn't good enough and that maybe she deserves this hand. She's
been dealt. But the only face cards she sees are the times she looks at the floor she cleans
with imprints of her cheek when your BAC outweighs your upbringing somehow erasing
all the evidence of why she should leave and repainting you as wonderful on the canvas
of comfortable with a setting of how misunderstood you are when there's a Hole in her
soul so big the hospital and church gotta work together. But you're a drunk welterweight
champion who has never lost a bout. Even though you've lost about everything there is to
see with a woman that devout. And to make it right you will prolly tell her you love her
and can't wait to see her in that wedding dress so you ease up on her. Not because it's
right, but because you know others care for her, like you say you do. And all that shit is
vapor once you get drunk again and don't realize that wedding dress is made of divorce
papers and the only ring you'll have is the one around another woman's eye, or in state
funded restaurants where tossed salad is on the house. But you a champ.
But you never wear your belt, she does. And every time you yell I imagine she shrinks
back because she hears an imaginary bell and knows that you've come to defend a title
she has never wanted you to have and her pain you've never felt. But until you get your
ass whooped or she decides to leave, you'll be a drunk welterweight with titles, and she's
wearing belts around her eyes and welts around her wrists wondering why she couldn't
have been a ring card girl