Friday, September 19, 2014

Poem of the Week: Ross Gay

Photo of Ross Gay

To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian

Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
looking up 
the racket in
the lugwork probably
rehearsing some
stupid thing I
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a 
broom beneath
which you are now
too the canopy
of a fig its 
arms pulling the
September sun to it
and she
has a hose too
and so works hard
rinsing and scrubbing
the walk
lest some poor sod
slip on the 
silk of a fig
and break his hip
and not probably
reach over to gobble up
the perpetrator 
the light catches
the veins in her hands 
when I ask about 
the tree they 
flutter in the air and
she says take
as much as
you can 
help me
so I load my 
pockets and mouth
and she points
to the step-ladder against 
the wall to
mean more but
I was without a 
sack so my meager
plunder would have to 
suffice and an old woman
whom gravity
was pulling into
the earth loosed one
from a low slung 
branch and its eye
wept like hers
which she dabbed
with a kerchief as she
cleaved the fig with
what remained of her
teeth and soon there were
eight or nine 
people gathered beneath
the tree looking into
it like a 
constellation pointing
do you see it
and I am tall and so
good for these things
and a bald man even 
told me so 
when I grabbed three
or four for 
him reaching into the 
giddy throngs of
yellow-jackets sugar 
stoned which he only
pointed to smiling and
rubbing his stomach
I mean he was really rubbing his stomach
like there was a baby 
in there
it was hot his
head shone while he 
offered recipes to the 
group using words which 
I couldn’t understand and besides
I was a little
tipsy on the dance
of the velvety heart rolling
in my mouth
pulling me down and
down into the
oldest countries of my 
body where I ate my first fig
from the hand of a man who escaped his country
by swimming through the night 
and maybe
never said more than
five words to me
at once but gave me
figs and a man on his way
to work hops twice
to reach at last his
fig which he smiles at and calls 
baby, c’mere baby,
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree which everyone knows
cannot grow this far north
being Mediterranean
and favoring the rocky, sun-baked soils
of Jordan and Sicily
but no one told the fig tree
or the immigrants
there is a way
the fig tree grows
in groves it wants,
it seems, to hold us,
yes I am anthropomorphizing
goddammit I have twice
in the last thirty seconds
rubbed my sweaty 
forearm into someone else’s
sweaty shoulder
gleeful eating out of each other’s hands
on Christian St.
in Philadelphia a city like most
which has murdered its own 
this is true
we are feeding each other 
from a tree
at the corner of Christian and 9th
strangers maybe 
never again.

From American Poetry Review, May/June 2013.
Used by permission

Ross Gay is a gardener and teacher living in Bloomington, Indiana.  This poem is from his forthcoming book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!
If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

People's Climate March Suffused With Art & Storytelling

People's Climate March Logo 

Going to NYC for the Largest Climate March in History? 
Check out the art & beauty throughout!

Full details at:

Telling the Story of Today's Climate Movement

Today's climate movement is different from the one of decades past, and the People's Climate March tells that new story. March organizers are trying something new and arranging the contingents of the march in a way that helps thread the movement's many messages together.

There are six themes, and you can see how they fit into the assembly area above - along with more specific meeting places for contingents complete with subway directions below that. If you're looking to march with a specific contingent, please show up early - and stay flexible, the march is going to be great wherever you are! More info here.
Climate Ribbon

A massive public art installation is planned, with ribbons containing short messages to grieve what we all stand to lose through climate change. A project of People's Climate Arts. Details here.

Add your voice to the climate ribbon online here.

Writers Respond to Climate Change 

Get ready for People's Climate March
@ the Old Stone House, Park Slope
Brooklyn Historic Monument
Sept 19 @ 6:45- 9:30 pm

American Book Award Winner, Daniela Gioseffi, Editor, re. climate crisis literature & alerts hosts Nancy Mercado, Premier Latina Poet of NY, & Pam Laskin, BigApple Poet/Teacher of CCNY reading works by themselves and Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Marge Piercy, Alicia Ostricker, Joe Bruchac of the Abenaki Nation, Linda Hogan of the Chickasaw Nation, Allen Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda, Ishmael Reed, etc. form the e-Anthology OPEN MIC Sign up at 6:45 pm. Time is limited. Bring your favorite 1-pg poem. Discussion with the audience afterwards. Fliers for THE PEOPLE'S CLIMATE MARCH and Petitions for DIVEST NYCITY from FOSSIL FUELS! More here.

A Queer Response to Climate Change

Friday September 19, 2014 7:00 PM
NYC Metropolitan Community Church
446 W 36th Street, NYC
FREE! (donations welcomed but not required)

 Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, along with Peterson Toscano, a queer comic performance artist and off-beat Bible scholar, team up to offer a presentation that is guaranteed to expand your thinking, give you hope, and provide direction for you and your community in the face of big changes on our little planet. Discover what your role might be on our new earth and learn how LGBTQ folks and faith communities already have experiences and resources to draw on in the midst of our current and growing climate crisis. It's time for the ultimate makeover! A special performance by singer/song writer, Joe Stevens. Also, J Mase iii, "a Black/Trans/ Queer/ Rowdy-as-Hell Poet with a capital [P]" will take part in the event and share some original pieces. More here.

South Bronx Environmental Justice 
Waterfront Tour 
Meet at Brook Park Sept 20 @12 pm

South Bronx Unite, co-founded by one of the 38 civil society delegates selected to attend the UN Climate Summit, invites friends and allies of those on the frontlines of climate justice to join the South Bronx Environmental Justice Waterfront Tour. This dynamic tour will bring participants to the frontlines of climate change and environmental justice, less than five miles from UN headquarters. Following the tour, South Bronx residents will perform The Cantastoria of the South Bronx, a theatrical performance written and developed in collaboration with Papel Machete about the needs, issues and experiences of the South Bronx. More here.

September 20, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
156 Rivington Street, New York

ABC-No-Rio Hardcore/Punk Matinees during the Global Climate March weekend in NYC. Four bands, literature tables at the longest running DIY all-ages/volunteer-run punk/ hardcore venue in NYC. More here.

View all the affiliated events here.

Can't get to NYC?
There are events going on in a region near you! To find them in your community visit

Friday, September 12, 2014

Martín Espada to Receive Busboys and Poets Award @ Fall for the Book

Martín Espada will receive the 2014 Busboys and Poets Award on Saturday, September 13, at 5:30 p.m. in Grand Tier III, Center for the Arts, on George Mason University’s Fairfax, VA, campus.  

The award is sponsored by Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and gathering place based in Washington, DC. In addition to recognizing the work of the poet chosen to receive it, the award also pays tribute to Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the 1920s before he gained recognition as a poet. 

Sarah Browning, Executive Director of Split This Rock and a long-time host of poetry programming at Busboys and Poets, will present the award—which includes a plaque and a monetary award—following a talk and reading by Espada.
Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. He has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems, The Trouble Ball (Norton), is the recipient of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award and an International Latino Book Award. His previous book of poems, The Republic of Poetry (Norton), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has also received an American Book Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. 

The title poem of his collection, Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays, Zapata’s Disciple(South End Press), has been banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Previous winners of the Busboys and Poets Award include Claudia Rankine (2011), Rita Dove (2012), and Sonia Sanchez (2013).

Poem of the Week: Juan Carlos Galeano


In the north we hunted many buffalo
whose lard warmed us all winter.

But in the jungle they told us that to bring more light
we should throw more trees into the sun's furnace.

One day our hand slipped and tossed in the entire jungle
with its birds, fish, and rivers.

Now we spend a lot of time gazing at the stars
and our daily menu almost never changes.

Today we hunted down a cloud
that was going to become winter in New York City

From The Ecopoetry Anthology, edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura Gray Street. (Trinity University Press, San Antonio, Texas.) Used by permission.

Juan Carlos Galeano was born in the Colombian Amazon. He is the author of several books of poetry and translations of American poetry. His work inspired by Amazonian cosmologies has been published and anthologized internationally and widely translated. Magazines and journals such as The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and Antioch Review have published his poems. Other works include a collection of folktales Cuentos amazónicos (2014), Folktales of the Amazon (2009), as well as a film he co-directed and co-produced, The Trees Have a Mother (2008). He teaches Latin American poetry and cultures of the Amazon at Florida State University. 

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Poem of the Week: Linda Hogan

Song for the Turtles of the Gulf

We had been together so very long,
you willing to swim with me
just last month, myself merely small
in the ocean of splendor and light,
the reflections and distortions of us,
and now when I see the man from British Petroleum
lift you up dead from the plastic 

bin of death,
he with a smile, you burned
and covered with red-black oil, torched
and pained, all I can think is that I loved your life,
the very air you exhaled when you rose,
old great mother, the beautiful swimmer,
the mosaic growth of shell
so detailed, no part of you
simple, meaningless,
or able to be created
by any human,

only destroyed.
How can they learn
the secret importance
of your beaten heart,
the eyes of another intelligence
than ours, maybe greater,
with claws, flippers, plastron.
Forgive us for being thrown off true,
for our trespasses,
in the eddies of water
where we first walked.

From Dark. Sweet.: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2014).
Used by permission.

Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and activist, is widely considered to be one of the most influential and provocative Native American figures in the contemporary American literary landscape, and is an internationally recognized public speaker. Her most recent books are the poetry book, Indios (Wings Press, 2012); the poetry collection, Rounding the Human Corners (Coffee House Press, 2008); and the novel, People of the Whale (Norton, 2008).  A new 
collection of poems, Dark. Sweet., is due in 2014. Her other novels include Mean Spirit, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, the Mountains and Plains Book Award; Solar Storms, a finalist for the International Impact Award; and Power. Her other poetry books have received the Colorado Book Award and an American Book Award.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Poem of the Week: TJ Jarrett

Of Late, I Have Been Thinking About Despair

its ruthless syntax, and the ease with which it interjects
itself into our days. I thought how best to explain this—

this dark winter, but that wasn’t it, or beds unshared
but that isn’t exactly it either, until I remembered

Saturday afternoons spent with my father in the garage
and those broken cars one after another. At the time,

that’s what we could afford. Broken things. Saturdays,
there was always a game on the radio and I’d stand

beside him or lie under the engine, oil cascading from
the oilpan. Daddy would curse wildly, sometimes

about the car, sometimes about the game. Sometimes
Mama called for one or the other of us from upstairs and

I’d trudge up to see what she wanted with a sigh.
We sighed so much then. Funny. If you asked us

if we were happy, we’d say: Families. They are happy.
There’s a solace in broke-down cars: you can find what

is broken. You can make it whole again. I’d pop the hood,
peer into the sooty inside and Daddy would pass me parts

for my small hands to tender to each need. Daddy
scrambled into the front seat, turned a key and a roar

came out that would be cause for rejoicing. But time came,
(this is the inevitable part) when he would draw the white

handkerchief to his head in surrender. I would always ask
if we could've tried harder. Baby girl, he’d say. She’s gone.  

Used by permission.
Photo by: Dennis Wile.

TJ Jarrett is a writer and software developer in Nashville, Tennessee. Her recent work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, African American Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Callaloo, DIAGRAM, Third Coast, VQR, West Branch and others. Her debut collection Ain’t No Grave  (finalist for the 2013 Balcones Prize) is published with New Issues Press (2013). Her second collection Zion (winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition 2013) will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2014. More info at

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014


What an an exciting season for poetry it is in our nation's capital! Allow us to share a few reasons why.

DC poetry wins!

Photo by Outlier Imagery

In case you missed it: DC now holds 2 poetry slam titles! One of them, we're proud to say belongs to Split This Rock's DC Youth Slam Team, which took first place at the 2014 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Check out videos of their performances here.

The other title belongs to the adults of the Beltway Poetry Slam team as the 2014 National Poetry Slam champs! 

Now to build the 2015 teams!  Learn how you or a young person you know can become part of the 2015 DC Youth Slam Team here.

Fabulous New Split This Rock Events!  

The coming months are filled with opportunities for you to write, listen, cheer, converse, submit. Check out these upcoming Split This Rock events: 
  • National Book Festival Youth Slam: Stage [Hearts] PageAugust 30 • 6-7:30pm • FREE. Poetry & Prose Pavilion, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW (DC). More here. FB event page here.

  • NEW Writing Workshop Series. Held every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, starting September 3 • 6:30-8:30pm • $5. We'll bring the writing prompts. You bring the creativity! Drop in - No RSVP required. Open to ALL ages and levels of experience. More here.
  • Monthly House Party Series Begins. September 20 • 3-5pm • FREE. Hosted by Andy and Marjan Shallal, this event will be the first in a monthly series spreading the word about the work of Split This Rock. Come to have fun but also to hear why others choose to invest in Split This Rock and consider joining with them. RSVP is required. Address will be supplied once you register here. Space is limited
Poetry Workshop led by Linda Hogan. Sept. 14 • 2-4:30pm • $25 - scholarships availableInstitute for Policy Studies Conference Rm, 1112 16th St. NW (DC). Register here.

Linda Hogan Reading (DC). Sept. 14 • 6:30-8pm • $5. Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th St. NW (DC). A Fall for the Book event.

Linda Hogan Reading (VA) at Fall for the Book festival. Sept. 15 • 4:30-5:45pm • FREEGeorge Mason University Johnson Ctr. Plaza, Sandy Spring Bank Tent, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, VA.

  • Poetic & Intellectual Freedom Panel Discussion at Fall for the Book festival. Sept. 16 • 4:30-5:45pm • FREE. George Mason University Johnson Ctr. Plaza, Sandy Spring Bank Tent, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, VA• 3-5pm • FREE. 
  • Sunday Kind of Love (Monthly).  3rd Sunday of every month • 5-7pm • $5Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St, NW, Washington, D.C. Check out our website for the line up of our monthly featured artists. Hermine Pinson and TJ Jarrett feature on September 21. Click here for tickets.
  • Youth Slams, Writing Workshops, Open Mics & Other Special Events. Stay tuned to the DC Youth Slam Team Facebook page to find out about lots of new and ongoing events for young writers. Some upcoming events include: An interest meeting for teachings and other school staff interested in bringing Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam activities to their school (Sept. 8, 6pm), poetry slams (Sept. 12, 7pm / Sept. 17, 5pm), and a writing group (Sept. 24, 6pm). Click here for more info.

Don't Forget The Deadlines!
  • Annual Poetry Contest. Submissions accepted until November 1! Info here.
  • Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016: April 14-17, 2016.
There's SO much poetry in store! We hope you'll be able to participate!

In Peace & Poetry,
Split This Rock