Friday, December 31, 2010

Poem-of-the-Week: Jose Padua

A Portrait of America in Trash

I give to you a portrait of America in trash.

I give it to you with love and respect, America:

mountains of beer cans crumpled, plastic figures

with fallen action, black velvet portraits of Elvis

with broken frames and food stains; I give to you

all the beautiful useless objects of our time built

up into great muddy walls of stench, solemn mon-

uments to steady gimmicks and confidence games,

women and men with voices and no spines. Like

hallelujahs falling on a parking lot's wet pavement,

or tattoos of hearts on wrinkling skin, I am moving on,

trying to find a way around these American mountains.

High above the fruited plain I hover; America, my

lover, I give to you my rotten paradise, I bequeath

to you my hog's view, I toss to you what is heaven

and disposable, a gracious state of nothing that lifts us,

a celebration saying that everything we know is trash.

The poor cast off plastic wrappers, paper soaked with

grease and noisy metal as the rich cast off the poor

like an itch; it's as easy as a blink, witty or dry like

a fly; attracted to what dies, he makes his way toward

the glaze of a poor man's eye. What America makes,

America can throw away: we have the right, right?

I step off the plane and into the flushing river. I am

petrified. I am stone. My eyes are all aquiver.

Used by permission.

Jose Padua's poetry and fiction have appeared in Bomb,, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine,Unbearables, Crimes of the Beats, Up is Up, but So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, and many other journals and anthologies. He has also written features and reviews for NYPress, Washington City Paper, the Brooklyn Rail, and the New York Times. He has read his work at the Lollapalooza Festival, CBGBs, the Knitting Factory, the Public Theater, the Living Theater, the Nuyorican Poets' Café, the St. Mark's Poetry Project, the Black Cat Club, the Washington Project for the Arts, and many other venues. He lives in Virginia with his wife, the poet Heather Davis, and their daughter and son. He and his wife write the blog Shenandoah Breakdown,

Padua appeared on the panel "The Care and Feeding of the Rural/Small Town Poet-Activist" at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Poem of the Week: Patricia Monaghan

Knowing the Bomb So Well

After the nightly news and four martinis
he quietly begins to draw the inner workings

of the bomb, knowing the explosion needed
to ignite fission does not itself compromise

the real event; how compartmentalized the bomb,
of necessity, is, to keep the elements

separate until it impacts on target;
with what care the bomb is timed so that

from the moment of release it proceeds
inexorably to detonation.

It is necessary then to explain his drawing
in detail to the children, before they go to bed.

After a few moments he quizzes them:
What are the proper names of the bombs dropped

on Nagasaki, Hiroshima? Who captained
the Enola Gay? How does a prisoner

of war answer the enemy? The children
do not speak. They know release has occurred,

the elements are colliding, impact is inevitable.
It is always a first-strike situation. Always.

-Patricia Monaghan

From Homefront (Wordtech Editions 2005).

Used by permission.

Patricia Monaghan grew up in Alaska and now teaches literature and environment at DePaul University in Chicago; she also tends an organic farm and vineyard in Black Earth, Wisconsin. She is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Homefront (Word Tech Press), which considers the impact of war on families and from which this poem is taken. She is a Founding Fellow of Black Earth Institute, a progressive think-tank for artists striving to connect social justice, environment and spirituality.

Monaghan was on the panel “Giving Voice to the Silence/d” at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010. 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!

Split This Rock

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poem of the Week: Patricia Spears Jones

Photo credit: Thomas Sayers Ellis

Autumn, New York, 1999

And I am full of worry I wrote to a friend
Worry, she replied about what—love, money, health?

All of them, I wrote back. It’s autumn, the air is clear
and you hear death music—the rattle of leaves swirling

the midnight cat howling, a newborn baby’s 3 am
call for food or help or heart’s love

At the market, the green, red and yellow apples are piled high,
sweet perfume—once, I went apple picking in Massachusetts

a day of thralling beauty, my companions and I
had no desire to leave the valley—the plump trees,

the fierce pride of small town New England where a gift shop
exploded gingham, calico, silly stuffed toys

we stood within this shrine to cloying femininity of entwined hearts
and ribbons and bows like invading aliens, fascinated and appalled

and here too, people throng around the dahlias—
the last of the bright fat flowers. Open. Scentless.

It is going to be a very hard winter and we all know it in our bones
an almost atavistic memory with instruction—wear heavy clothes
horde food, drink water, stand against the wind


-Patricia Spears Jones

From Painkiller (Tia Chucha Press 2010).

Used by permission.

Patricia Spears Jones is an African American poet and playwright. She is author of three poetry collections Painkiller (2010), Femme du Monde (2006) and The Weather That Kills (1994) and editor of Think: Poems About Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Hat (2009) and Ordinary Women: Poetry by New York City Women (1978). Anthologized in Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry; Bowery Women Poets; broken land: Poems of Brooklyn, and Best American Poetry, 2000. Mabou Mines commissioned ‘Mother’, music composed by Carter Burwell and Song for New York: What Women Do When Men Sit Knitting, music composed by Lisa Gukin. Contributing editor to BOMB Magazine. Recipient of grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the Goethe Institute. Fellowships at Black Earth Institute; Yaddo,VCCA. Bread Loaf, and the Millay Colony. Instructor and reader for Poets House; St. Mark’s Poetry Project; California College of Art; Woodland Pattern, Barnard College; Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University; Pine Manor College and University of Rhode Island.

Spears Jones was on the panel “Giving Voice to the Silence/d” at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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!

Split This Rock

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dear Friend,

You've made 2010 a huge year for Split This Rock. With the consistent support of our local and national community, Split This Rock has spread the word far and wide that poetry makes a difference in the world, takes a stand, challenges and provokes.

You can help us charge into 2011 with a gift today. Just click here to donate.
Among Split This Rock's many accomplishments in 2010:

  • A second transformative Split This Rock Poetry Festival featuring over 45 events over four days, sparking essential conversations, and presenting dazzling, critically important contemporary poetry. Registrations were up 40% and attendees were a stunningly diverse crowd of all ages. The festival was given prominent coverage in the Washington Post and on NPR's national show, "Face the Nation." See photos here.
  • Split This Rock Poem-of-the-Week reached thousands, including teachers who are using them in classrooms and MFA students who are circulating them to classmates - busting open the poetry mainstream. If you've missed some, you can browse the archive here.
  • Poets took it to the streets at rallies for immigration reform and at the huge One Nation Working Together march, wearing poetry signs and distributing poems to marchers.
  • We celebrated DC's young poets with the third annual contest, The World & Me, honoring the young winners at Busboys and Poets in March. The national adult contest also attracted a great round of entries; read judge Chris Abani's top choices here.
  • Split This Rock's monthly series at Busboys and Poets, Sunday Kind of Love, presented a fifth bold year of poetry, featuring Kathy Engel, John Murillo, Aracelis Girmay, Brenda Hillman, Steven Cordova, and many others. And we celebrated an exhibit of Allen Ginsberg's photos at the National Gallery in July with three sold-out performances of "Howl" by Anne Waldman.

2011 is shaping up to be another critical year, as we plan the next Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for March 22-25, 2012, and featuring - so far - Marilyn Nelson, Sonia Sanchez, and Alice Walker. 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of visionary poet and activist June Jordan, so we'll be celebrating her legacy throughout the festival.

Split This Rock will also be Literary Partners at the national AWP conference this year; watch your In box for details of our tribute to Langston Hughes with Sonia Sanchez and a Split This Rock panel on the poet as public citizen. With off-site readings on immigration and the Gulf oil disaster and an action on the White House, it will be an exciting week!

None of this will be possible without your support. Please donate $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford today. Just click here to give.

Or write a check to "Split This Rock" and mail it to:
Split This Rock
1112 16th Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Let us remember June Jordan's words as we navigate these difficult times: "We will have to drown out the official language of the powerful with our own mighty and conflicting voices or we will perish as a people."

Help Split This Rock amplify the mighty and conflicting voices we all need so much today. Please click here and give.

With gratitude and fierce hopes for peace in 2011,

Sarah Browning
for the whole Split This Rock team

Split This Rock Poetry Festival


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Poem of the Week: Yael Flusberg


..................The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
..................-Rosa Parks

after the first three hours
the temperature dropped to visible breath.
my fall coat no longer protected and my toes
went numb so i tried to transcend time
by thumbing a rose quartz bracelet
each bead proof of my will to persist,
my mother always said standing appels*
for hours was a sentence of death
for the weak.

in the muddy field where thousands of souls made solitary
by the cold snaked around a makeshift fence,
i found a handful of warmth, a single ruby glove.

i practiced standing meditation following the ringing
in my ears to keep my mind from wondering why
i was on this line, not in my down-covered bed
when i’d see the coffin just as well in the newspaper
in the morning. each time i lifted my sole i knew
i was one step closer to the dome with 108 windows
like a rosary i could pray with my eyes.

it was dawn when i finally circulated once around
the ceremonial space then down to the crypt below
where i begged that her being where she was
would bless where she was laying – and all of us
who’ll never have moments like hers on the bus
will still find something worth standing up for.

-Yael Flusberg

From The Last of My Village. Used by permission.

* In the Nazi concentration camps, inmates had to stand appels – a protracted roll call –twice a day regardless of weather or exhaustion. Some gave birth to babies buried on the spot. Many others dropped dead during the hours-long appels or were killed if they couldn’t maintain an erect posture.

Yael Flusberg’s nineteen-poem collection The Last of My Village reveals how a legacy of familial and cultural sorrow can be shaped—much like a poem—into the capacity to begin again. The Last of My Village won Poetica Magazine's 2010 Chapbook Contest, and is available at When not writing, Yael integrates creative, somatic and reflective practices into her work with social change organizations and leaders. Visit her blog at

Flusberg serves on the Board of Split This Rock. She co-ran the workshop “Yoga and Poetry in Changing Times” at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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!

Split This Rock

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Show your support for the free voice of Artists

Please check out this Washington Post article about the removal of an installation from a National Portrait Gallery exhibit and comment with your opinions about the negative effects of censorship on art.

Split This Rock Holiday Gift List: Books

It is the time of year when many of us are looking for meaningful ways to show our love and connection to each other. The following list contains books by many Split This Rock featured readers, panelists, participants, advisers, and supporters. Whether you are looking for a gift for the poet on your list, looking to share your love of poetry, or simply looking for a gift that conveys a sense of justice and action, you're sure to find something below.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. To recommend other titles,
post them in the comments section!

To buy any of these books, head down to your local independent bookstore or get them online at:

Teaching for Change's Busboys and Poets Bookstore or Powell's Books

Chris Abani
Copper Ca
nyon Press, 95 pp. $15.00

Reading this collection is like standing in a cathedral on a sunny day, dazzled by the bright stained glass windows. Here is a book of connected poems linking politics, religion and human loss into a liturgy of images. Excellent.

Francisco Aragón
Glow of our Sweat
Scapegoat Pr
ess, 72 pp. $12.95

Aragón places the reader in a storm of voices: tender, confused, relieved, and passionate. These poems draw on the rich tradition of Latino poets Dario and Lorca, while voicing a purely modern longing for love and acceptance. Read a poem from the collection here.

Elizabeth Alexander
Crave Radiance
raywolf Press, 240 pp., $28.00

The joy of Crave Radiance lies in watching the poems evolve over twenty years. Two decades of speaking to the African American cultural experience makes Alexander’s collection read like a powerful cultural memoir, reminding us at once of where we have been and where we are going.

R. Dwayne Betts
Shahid Reads His Own Palm
Alice James Books, 80 pp. $15.95

Selected as the 2009 Beatrice Hawley Award winner and
published by Alice James Books. These poems have wings. Resilient, lucid and attentive. Poems about memory and survival, lock up and lock down. As Marie Howe says,"this poet has entered the fire and walked out with the actual light inside him."

Kyle Dargan
Logorrhea Dementia: A Self Diagnosis
ity of Georgia Press/VQR Imprint, 72 pp., $16.95

The language of these poems pushes and keeps pushing – through officialese to absurdity, through music and popular culture to an understanding, however complex and shifting, of how we live our lives. The poems can be dense and rich with allusion or stretching and stretched, a wonderful patchwork of form.

Camille Dungy
Suck on the Marrow
Red Hen Press, 88 pp. $17.

Suck on the Marrow is “a fiction based on fact," historical verse that follows the lives of six main characters in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia; men and women who lived as slaves and free persons, some who escaped, others who were born free and taken captive, and the ways in which their lives intertwine. This intimate collection of lyric and persona poems give voice to hunger, love, and survival of ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances.

Thomas Sayers Ellis
Skin, Inc.
olf Press, 176 pp. $23.00

Skin, Inc. offers the reader a rich, irreverent, and thoughtful walk through the battlefield that is race in America. In beautifully crafted poems and evocative photographs, Ellis lets us feel, laugh, and begin the process of repairing our identities. Read a poem from the collection here.

Martín Espada
The Lover of a Subversive is Also a Subversive:
Essays and Commentaries
University of Michigan Press, 118 pp. $28.95

Provocative and passionate essays on poetry and advocacy. Topics include: the poet/ lawyer, the role of poets in the Puerto Rican independence movement, a celebration of poet Jack Agüeros, speaking the unspoken, the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass, poets of the Vietnam War, a rebuttal to the unacknowledged legislator, marching with DC Poets Against the War, and more. Espada is as strong an essayist as he is a poet and these essays lays claim to the role of poet as truth teller, witness and advocate for justice, celebrating a lineage of poets who have shared this commitment in their work.

Yael Flusberg
The Last of My Village
Poetica Publishing, 38 pp. $13.00

The Last of My Village reaches through family history and world history to tell the stories of survival. Winner of the Poetica Chapbook Award for 2010, the book reconstructs Jewish working class New York and pre-gentrification DC, always asking how the past can help us begin again, how tradition can be a talisman as we forge a new vision of spirituality and common justice. Read a poem from the collection here.

Melody S. Gee
Each Crumbling House
Perugia, 78 pp. $16.00

Gee takes the reader on a walk through memory, family, home and exile.These gentle poems accompany the reader through Chinese villages and
relocated homes in California, always illuminating the real home in human relationships.

Terrance Hayes
Penguin, 112 pp. $18.00

The 2010 National Book Award winner for poetry takes a fearless look at our urgings, hopes and fears. Hayes’ language always surprises the reader with its layers and beauty. Like the blues, this collection names pain and moves through it. Any reader who loves language will delight in this award-winning collection of poems.

Seamus Heaney
Human Chain
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 96 pp. $24.00

A collective of quiet, meditative poems. His layered images will capture the reader at the connection between personal history and the history of nations. These poems are accessible, rich, and elegant in their simplicity.

Niki Herd
The Language of Shedding Skin
Main Street Rag, 61 pp. $14.00

Write a poem… with the memory of good / bone and blood the poet instructs us and she does: poems of brutality and tenderness, of the violence Black people have endured in this country and of their resistance through poetry, through music, and through love. Ranging through history, the poems situate themselves in our difficult, contradictory moment. Note: Niki Herd will be reading at Sunday Kind of Love, December 19, at Busboys and Poets, 14th and V Streets, NW, Washington, DC.

Lita Hooper
Thunder in Her Voice: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Willow Books, 57 pp. $14.95

Hooper has woven a stunning tapestry made up of poems of Sojourner Truth’s
inner life
and biography juxtaposed with excerpts from The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. The poems expose the deep ache of families torn apart, the torture at the heart of slavery, and the spiritual strength required for resistance. “Freedom…” says Sojourner Truth’s father in “Bomefree’s Last Testimony,” “come like rain when you need it most, when we can / no longer stand the drought.”

Tahar Ben Jelloun Cullen Goldblatt, Translator
The Rising of the Ashes
City Lights Books, 160 pp. $16.95

The Rising of the Ashes, written in French by Moroccan born poet, Tahar Ben Jelloun, continues two poetic sequences—one that gives voice to the dead and wounded in the Gulf War in 1991 and another that gives voice to Palestinians murdered in Lebanon and occupied territories during 1980s. These are a necessary remembering of crimes already turned to dust. As Jelloun writes in his preface, “To name the wound, to give a name again to the face voided by the flame, to tell, to make and remake the borders of silence, that is what the poet’s conscience dictates.”

Patricia Spears Jones
Pain Killer
Tia Chucha Press, 80 pp., $15.95

Eros stalks New York City in these poems, as does love and the ghosts of those lost to AIDS, poverty, time. The poet employs great stylistic variety – poems long and exceedingly brief, lamentations and celebrations, sometimes wrapped in one – at the service of a warm humanistic vision of her city and of our world. These are poems “despite / abandonment, despair, the world, the world, the world.”

Mahmoud Darwish Fady Joudah , Translator
If I Were Another
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 201 pp. $28.00

The award winning translator of Mahmoud Darwish, Fady Joudah, has said of the process of translating the great Palestinian poet, “If I am able to sing Darwish’s poem as if it were another in English, then I have succeeded.” In his translations of five Darwish epics, Joudah truly sings the poems. In If I Were Another, ordinariness and the presence of nature meld with the experience of war and exile. Cultural memory, grounded in personal loss, becomes global, as Darwish meditates on the experience of Native Americans. The poems understand what it is to long for home and peace, but mostly, they sing a vision of a possible justice.

Francesco Levato
Elegy for Dead Languages
Marick Press, 84 pp., $14.95

A collection of four long documentary poems, War Rug; Elegy for Dead Languages; and Hood, Handgun, Power Drill. These poems read like the news would read if there were any such thing as news these days. Fusing language of autopsy reports, counterintelligence manuals, and other official reports with the language of poetry, these poems are inhabited, haunted, visceral poems that lay cold the language of war.

Michael Luis Medrano
Born in the Cavity of Sunsets
Bilingual Press, 70 pp., $11.00

Michael Luis Medrano draws his poetic breath from the lives of the Latino community in Fresno, CA. Medrano’s poems in Born In the Cavity of Sunsets do not fear risk; they play with repetition and prose while firmly anchored in place and time. Street gangs and Gertrude Stein, priests and Bukowski, addicts and Ginsberg, Iowa and California appear next to each other on the page, creating a powerful and beautiful book.

John Murillo
Up Jump the Boogie

Cypher Books, 112 pp., $12.95

Murillo tells the stories of fathers, sons, neighborhoods and mentors. Using the language of music, his poems beat out a rhythm that is young and wise at the same time. A particularly good book for young adults.

Barbara Jane Reyes
BOA Editions, 82 pp., $16.00

Reyes creates a new mythology of lyrical beauty, grounded in Filipino tradition and ranging widely. The poems take on colonialism, war, the exploitation of women, often through the language of myth, creation, and the natural world; they are “poems to carry upon seawind and saltwind.”

Susan Rich
The Alchemist’s Kitchen

White Pine Press, 105 pp., $16.00

The poems here weave the personal and the political; they tell stories and lament. A strong middle section resurrects the early female photographer and painter of the American Northwest, Myra Albert Wiggins, with scenes from her life and work. Rich is in love with the music of poetry and many of the poems are in form, lilting through even the most difficult of subjects. Note: Susan will be reading at Busboys & Poets (5th and K St.) at 7pm on Thursday February 3rd for the White Pine Press Reading as part of AWP.

Myra Sklarew
Mayapple Press, 92 pp., $15.95

Harmless will capture you from the first poem. Its delicate poems, often using Jewish Biblical characters and themes, explore memory, family, parenting, and conflict. The poems build an architecture of tenderness we could all live in.

Alice Walker
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing
New World Library, 165 pp. $18.00

The first book of poems in several years by one of our leading literary lights and a scheduled feature for Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2012. Walker uses her characteristic short line to great effect in Hard Times, as in the poem, “Still,” here in its entirety: I have found / powerful / love /among / my sisters / I have / shredded / every / veil / and still / believe/ in them.


Frances Payne Adler, Debra Busman, Diana Garcia, Editors
Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing
University of Arizona Press, 448 pp. $32.95

An anthology created by teachers at the California State University Monterey Bay who have taught a course in creative writing and social action for years within a diverse student population. The anthology is the culmination of poetry and prose they’ve found useful in the classroom and includes such writers and visionaries as Gloria Anzaldua, Dennis Brutus, Lorna De Cervantes, Kelly Norman Ellis, Martín Espada, Jamaica Kincaid, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Patricia Smith, Sekou Sundiata, and many others, including former students, on topics as various and essential as the Breaking Silence/ Politics and Voice; Where I Come From: Writing Race, Class, Gender and Resistance; Coming into Langauge; the Work We Do; Environment, Illness, and Health; Prisons; War; Waging Peace; and Talking, Teaching and Imagining. This book sets the table for some serious truth telling and courageous writing.

Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam, Editors
Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry
University of Arkansas Press, 220 pp. $24.95

Indivisible is a collection of South Asian American poetry, which introduces readers to poets from a wide range of cultures, faiths, and languages who share the identity of living in the United States. These poems, written in the shadow of the attacks on the World Trade Center and subsequent wars, are a celebration of multiplicity and of poets who refuse to allow their allegiances to be divided. The collection includes both up and coming and established poets who bring a wide variety of style and subject matter to their works, including work from Homraj Acharya, Agha Shahid Ali, Kazim Ali, Minal Hajratwala, Ravi Shankar, and many others.

Melissa Kwasny & M.L Smoker, Editors
I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights Lost Horse Press, 168 pp. $18.00

Poems of witness against crimes of genocide, torture, war, rape, hate crimes, and more. These poems bring dignity and humanity to the wounded, language to our deepest silences, voice to unspeakable crimes, with poems by such poets as Marvin Bell, Tamiko Beyer, Martha Collins, Lois Red Elk, Christopher Howell, Scott Hightower, Christi Kramer, Phillip Metres, Farnoosh Moshiri, Susan Rich, and others. A poignant and necessary book. For a full review, please click here.

Kim Roberts, Editor
Full Moon on K Street

Plan B Press, 160 pp., $20

Roberts gathers 101 poems about Washington, D.C. These poems tell stories of change, beauty, decay, and hope as they trace the last 50 years of poems about our national capital. Anyone who loves Washington, D.C.—or loves poems of place — will love this book.

Kim Roberts, Editor
Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC
Lulu, 24 pp., $10

This collection takes the reader on a fascinating journey from 1991 to 2010. Roberts captures, in both prose and photography, the fire, anger, joy, and beauty that make up spoken word poetry. She takes you inside the coffeehouses and open mic venues and introduces you to the personalities of the movement.

For most of the above, review copies were provided by the publishers to Split This Rock for no cost.