Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Support Arts Funding in the District

Dear Friends,

The DC Advocates for the Arts are fighting against the cuts in the local arts budget. Please sign the petition letter below, and ask your networks - artists and arts organization folk - to sign on. Even if you are not tagged in this note, please add your name, affiliation, and the ward(s) in which you work as a comment here [note - this is a Facebook petition - if you comment on Blog This Rock, we will forward to DC Advocates to the Arts] to add your name to this petition. The deadline for signatures is Thursday at 2pm. This is a NOW do this NOW kind of ask.


Rob Bettmann

To: The Honorable Chairman Vincent C. Gray and the members of the District of Columbia Council
From: The DC Advocates for the Arts
Date: July 25, 2009

As has been documented by local and national media, the arts community is in crisis. Now is not the time to cut arts funding. To do so would undermine all of the investments that have been made building the local arts economy over the last thirty years.

The draft FY 10 budget cuts arts funding for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities by 37%, at the same time that private donations and foundation giving are down. Restoring funding to FY 2009 levels would give the arts community the time and confidence to leverage the city's support, and to continue serving the citizens of DC and the millions of visitors who come to the nation's capital each year. The additional money will have minimal impact on the overall budget, but it would provide great benefit to Washington's children and families, and our city's economy.

In FY 2009, the 14 million dollars allocated to the DC Commission supported arts education programming for thousands of DC school children, in every ward. That same investment contributed to city tax revenue by supporting the businesses of artists and arts organizations in every ward. The council would be wise to sustain its support of the arts reflective of the value that we provide on expenditure.

The city has invested heavily in the arts over the last thirty years, supporting programming and institutions. Now is not the time to undermine that progress. The creative economy can be part of the solution to the current economic and community crisis, and we ask you to: return funding to FY 2009 levels and to engage now with the DC Advocates for the Arts in a discussion to define priorities for arts spending for FY 2011. Now is not the time to slash investment that creates revenue, and supports jobs.


Robert Bettmann (Founder, Day Eight, All wards; and Chair, DC Advocates for the Arts)
George Koch (Founder, Artomatic, All wards; Steering committee, DC Advocates for the Arts)
Ava Spece (Executive Director, DC Youth Orchestra, All Wards; Steering committee, DC Advocates for the Arts)
Varissa McMickens (Executive Director, DC Arts and Education Collaborative, All wards; Steering committee, DC Advocates for the Arts)
David Furchgott (President, International Arts and Artists, Ward 2 and All)

We will present this to the city council late Thursday afternoon. The more signatures the better. If you want to really help, write your own note, and tag a member of our steering committee in it so that we track signatures.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

United for Iran: Rally in Support of the Iranian People

On Saturday, July 25th, from 4- 7 p.m. there will be a rally in support of the Iranian people in Washington, D.C. The evening will begin with a protest at the UN offices in DC at 18th and K NW, will continue with a march past the White House, and will end at the National Mall between 4th and 7th for rally.

"[The rally will show] support of the Iranian people and in condemnation of the human rights abuses being committed by the Iranian government. United4Iran does not promote any political agenda; our only aim is to support the people of Iran in their struggle for democracy, freedom and basic human rights."

Guest Speakers for the Event Include:

Mehrangiz Kar: Distinguished Human Rights Lawyer & Activist
Jody Williams: Noble Peace Prize Laureate
Joe Stork: Human Rights Watch, Middle East & North Africa Division
Parisa Saeb: Human Rights Activist

Musical Performance by: Dariush Eghbali

Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
Iranian League for Defense of Human Rights (LDDHI)
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Human Rights Watch
Reporters without Borders
Amnesty International USA
Nobel Women's Initiative
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Omid Advocates for Human Rights

For more information, including contact info, please go to the event page.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Important News from PEN

Dear PEN Members, Friends, and Supporters,

Next week, PEN will be in court challenging the U.S. government’s massive warrantless surveillance program. We believe our own communications, which include sensitive phone calls and e-mails with writers at risk around the world, are vulnerable under the program. And we know, based on the experiences of our colleagues in countries where governments had unchecked surveillance powers (including the United States as recently as the 1970s), that programs that allow governments to spy on their own citizens are often directed against writers and intellectuals, and that domestic surveillance in general poses a serious threat to the intellectual and creative freedoms of all citizens.

The hearing will take place next Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. in U.S. District Court in New York. It comes amid new revelations that the National Security Agency’s telephone and Internet surveillance program has been collecting the private communications of Americans in clear violation of longstanding legal limits on such domestic surveillance activity.

The NSA program was implemented in secret by the Bush Administration late in 2001 and its scope remains unknown, though concerns about its legality have surfaced repeatedly. In 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior Justice Department officials refused to provide the legal certification necessary for reauthorization of the program, believing it was violating the rights of ordinary Americans.

Last year, in a tacit acknowledgment that elements of the program were illegal, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act, which granted immunity to telecommunications companies for participating in the NSA program and supposedly authorized its controversial aspects.

Next week’s hearing is the first in a suit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act; meanwhile, ongoing Congressional investigations have uncovered information suggesting that the NSA is scrutinizing e-mails on a scale that may even violate the FISA Amendments Act.The Bush Administration, Congress, and now the Obama Administration insist that the powers are necessary to protect the country from individuals and groups that threaten national security.

In fact, the laws that the NSA program and other post-9/11 surveillance powers circumvent were specifically crafted to ensure the U.S. government can spy on suspected terrorists and other foreign threats. What those laws also guaranteed, however, was that the constitutional right of American citizens and residents to be secure against unreasonable searches was protected. History has repeatedly shown how, without such protections, surveillance in the name of national security often extends to spying on peaceful political activists, journalists and writers, and other ordinary, law-abiding citizens. As part of our Campaign for Core Freedoms, PEN has been challenging a range of post-9/11 surveillance powers that threaten the right of our members, and all American citizens and residents, to read, write, and communicate freely, without fearing that our government is listening in or compiling private, First Amendment-protected information.

We have been fighting to restore confidentiality protections for bookstore and library records and curb the ability of the FBI to use National Security Letters to gain sensitive personal information. We have made progress—but there is still work to be done to ensure that only those who are suspected of involvement in terrorism or other criminal activities are targeted.

Watch for information from PEN and from the Campaign for Reader Privacy in the coming days about what you can do to help us rein in excessive surveillance powers. Please visit PEN's resource page for information on NSA surveillance, the FISA Amendments Act, and how to take action.

With thanks for your support and all best wishes,

K. Anthony Appiah


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sunday Kind of Love This Sunday July 19

Sunday, July 19, 4-6pm
Langston Room; Busboys and Poets
@ 14th & V

Features Venus Thrash and Split This Rock's very own Sarah Browning (pictured). Bring your love and your poems for the open mic.

Venus Thrash's poetry has been published in Gargoyle, Folio, Gathering Ground, Beltway Quarterly, Torch, Haunted Voices, Haunting Places: An Anthology of Writers of the Old and New South, and the Arkansas Review. She has read at the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Schomburg Center for African American Research, and The Library of Congress. She is a Cave Canem and Soul Mountain Fellow. She is an adjunct Professor of English at Trinity College.

Sarah Browning is Co-Director of Split This Rock, author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007), and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press, 2004). She has worked as a community organizer for Boston public housing and as a political organizer for reproductive rights, gay rights, and electoral reform, and against poverty, South African apartheid, and U.S. militarism. She has written essays and interviewed poets and artists for a variety of publications.

Hosted by Katy Richey and Melissa Tuckey.

Sunday Kind of Love happens the 3rd Sunday of every month in the Langston Room at Busboys & Poets, 14th Street NW (V & 14th Streets NW, U Street/Cardozo metro). Sponsored by Busboys and Poets and Split This Rock Poetry Festival, with support from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Poetry Instigator: A New Writing Blog for Prompts

Check out this new blog for writing prompts: The Poetry Instigator at Lucy Biederman and Eleanor Tipton, two George Mason University graduate students, created this new blog that we think you'll be interested in.

On July 20, we're launching a four week SUMMER JOURNALS CHALLENGE, for which we're collaborating with four awesome national literary journals to bring you four weeks of cool prompts, literary discussions, special features, and more. Each of the four weeks, an editor from one of the featured journals will read the poems based on the week's prompt & choose a winner, who will receive a free year's subscription to the journal, not to mention bragging rights!

*Visit The Poetry Instigator and register for the summer challenge today

*Forward this announcement to any friends who might be interested

*Visit us on Facebook, become a fan, and/or update your status with our website to help us advertise!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Consequence Magazine Announces the Consequence Prize in Poetry

The Consequence Prize in Poetry will be awarded for the best poem addressing current war or armed conflict. The award will be presented at a poetry event sponsored by CONSEQUENCE magazine at the 2009 Massachusetts Poetry Festival on October 17, 2009. The winner will receive $100, have the selected poem published in both print and online editions of Consequence, be invited to read at the launch of Consequence Magazine’s next print edition, and receive a three year subscription to the magazine.(All poems submitted will be considered for publication in both print and online editions.)

Our Judge this year is poet and translator Kevin Bowen who will also present the award. No entry fee is required and the entry deadline is September 1, 2009. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review of Mark Nowak's Latest Book, Coal Mountain Elementary

277 Miners Die in South Africa Last Year

Five Killed, Five Injured in Coal Mine

Three Die in Kazakhstan Coal Mine Collapse

Those are the last three entries on Poet Mark Nowak’s blog, Coal Mountain. In this blog, which shares the name of his most recent book of poems, Nowak posts stories of the devastating human consequences of the mining industry and its practices, stories not often found in the mainstream media. Nowak’s ongoing work to keep the stories of mining deaths at the forefront of his readers’ minds demonstrates the urgency with which these issues need to be addressed; constantly reminding us that there are lives of real people at stake as well as environmental, economic and political costs to mining.

Nowak translates the resolve of his daily activism on behalf of working people into art in all three of his books of poetry, Shut Up, Shut Down, Revenants, and his most recent book, Coal Mountain Elementary. Deceptively simple, Coal Mountain Elementary combines photographs, newspaper articles, eyewitness testimony, and parts of an elementary school curriculum to relay the human consequences of coal mining. The book reveals how people across the globe are daily dehumanized to support an unsustainable level of consumption. Nowak’s poetry lies in the arrangement of the book as whole – fragments of testimony demand that we witness the devastation of human life in the interest of mining and profit.

The book is divided into three “lessons,” based the curriculum Nowak excerpts from the American Coal Foundation. The first lesson, “Coal Flowers: A Historic Craft,” contrasts the making of a craft that mining families would make when they had “little money/ to buy decorations/ or purchase toys” with Chinese newspaper reports of mining disasters and verbatim testimony from the Sago mining disaster in West Virginia. The brutal truths revealed by this juxtaposition are reinforced by the inclusion of Ian Teh’s photographs of Chinese mines, and Nowak’s own photos of the Sago mine and surrounding area. A photo of a sign reading “Safety Protects People. Quality Protects Jobs” is followed by a Sago mine worker’s description of being caught in the explosion:
“And I thought we was getting covered up with a roof fall at first. I said, oh no, I’m going to get covered up in a mantrip, buried alive here.” The next page indicates that two class periods will be necessary for the making of coal flowers.

In preserving the voices of the miners, Nowak has created a haunting tone to the book. As the narratives progress, we begin to see that these men are talking about ghosts – they talk about the bodies of their friends, relatives, supervisors, and coworkers that they find, and they are guilt-ridden about communications problems that gave false hope to the families of the dead. Their voices are presented next to Chinese newspaper reports of mine disasters, many of which contain the voices of mourners. The second lesson ends with such a voice:

“Tang Xufang, wife of a missing miner, brought his clothes from a dormitory, piled them up and set them on fire, an old Chinese tradition that some believe allows their dead loved ones to use the articles in the afterlife. …After the accident, Tang set off for the mine by train, but couldn’t get past police until Chinese reporters arrived… and demanded they open the gates.”

The way Tang is treated by the police – voiceless, powerless – and the way the press amplifies her voice exemplifies the effect of Coal Mountain Elementary on the reader. Tossed between photographic evidence of working conditions, the voices of the Sago miners, and the newspaper accounts, the children’s curriculum becomes increasingly poignant, as the lessons move from craft, to "mining" a cookie for its chocolate chips to explore costs (labor is not included other than with a price tag), to writing a short story about life in a mining town. This intertextuality is both the art and the power of the book – the story of Sago unfolds in such a way that is impossible to separate from the unrelenting onslaught of the accounts of deaths in Chinese mines. Nowak interweaves the four elements expertly, leaving us no choice but to face the consequences of our consumption and our failing policies.

Buy this book at Coffee House Press.

Katherine Howell is the Blog Goddess and Communications and Development Assistant for Split This Rock Poetry Festival; she lives and writes in Washington, D.C. Other reviews by Katherine can be found here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Opportunites from the Writer's Center

The Writer’s Center, established in 1976, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest literary centers. It provides over 60 free public events and more than 200 writing workshops each year, sells one of the largest selections of literary magazines in its on-site bookstore, and publishes Poet Lore, America’s oldest continually published poetry journal.

Emerging Writer Fellowships: Call for Submissions

The Writer’s Center, metropolitan DC’s community gathering place for writers and readers, is currently accepting submissions for several competitive Emerging Writer Fellowships. Emerging Writer Fellows will be selected from applicants who have published up to 2 book-length works of prose and up to 3 book-length works of poetry. We welcome submissions from writers of any genre, background, or experience. Emerging Writer Fellows will be featured at The Writer’s Center as part of their Emerging Writers Reading Series. The readings, held on Friday evenings, bring together writers in different genres with a backdrop of live music. The Writer’s Center book store will sell titles by the Emerging Writers throughout the season in which they appear in an effort to promote them and their work to a wide audience.

Selected Fellows are invited to lead a special Saturday workshop at The Writer’s Center, with compensation commensurate with standard Writer’s Center provisions.

Fellows receive an all-inclusive honorarium to help offset their travel costs in the amount of $250 or $500, depending on their place of departure.

Fellows for Fall 2009 include novelist Alexander Chee (Edinburgh), novelist Lisa Selin Davis (Belly), poet Suzanne Frischkorn (Lit Windowpane), poet Aaron Smith (Blue on Blue Ground), Canadian fiction writer Neal Smith (Bang Crunch), poet Srikanth Reddy (Facts for Visitors), and poet Nancy Krygowski (Velocity).

Their events will be held in September, October, and December. See events calendar for more information.

Spring 2009 events will be held in February, March, and April/May.

To be considered, please send a letter of interest, a resume or CV that details publication history and familiarity facilitating group discussions, and a copy of your most recent book. Self-published or vanity press titles will not be accepted. A committee comprised of The Writer’s Center board members, staff, and members will evaluate submissions on behalf of our community of writers.

The deadline to submit is August 15, 2009.

Applicants are encouraged to call Charles Jensen, Director, for more information at 301-654-8664.

Undiscovered Voices Fellowship: Call for Applications

The Writer’s Center seeks promising writers earning less than $25,000 annually to apply for our Undiscovered Voices Fellowship. This fellowship program will provide complimentary writing workshops to the selected applicant for a period of one year, but not to exceed 8 workshops in that year. We expect the selected fellow will use the year to make progress toward a completed manuscript of publishable work.

The Writer’s Center believes writers of all backgrounds and experiences should have an opportunity to devote time and energy toward the perfection of their craft.

The selected fellow will be able to attend writing workshops offered by The Writer’s Center free of charge. In addition, the fellow will give a reading from his or her work at the close of the fellowship period (June 2010) and will be invited to speak with local high school students on the craft of writing.

To apply, candidates should submit
a) a cover letter signed by the candidate that contains the statement: “I understand and confirm I meet all eligibility requirements of the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship.” The cover letter should include information on the impact this fellowship would have on the candidate.
b) contact information for two references who can speak to the candidate’s creative work and promise
c) a work sample in a single genre:
• 8 pages of poetry, no more than one poem per page
• 10 pages of fiction, double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt
• 10 pages of nonfiction (essay, memoir, etc), double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt
• 15 pages of a script or screenplay

These items should be sent in hard copy to The Writer’s Center, Attn: Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, 4508 Walsh St, Bethesda MD 20815. The deadline is September 15, 2009.