Friday, March 28, 2014

Poem of the Week: Joy Harjo


           for Audre Lorde

This city is made of stone, of blood, and fish.
There are Chugatch Mountains to the east
and whale and seal to the west.
It hasn't always been this way, because glaciers
who are ice ghosts create oceans, carve earth
and shape this city here, by the sound.
They swim backwards in time.

Once a storm of boiling earth cracked open
the streets, threw open the town.
It's quiet now, but underneath the concrete
is the cooking earth,
                                 and above that, air
which is another ocean, where spirits we can't see
are dancing                joking                   getting full
on roasted caribou, and the praying
goes on, extends out.

Nora and I go walking down 4th Avenue
and know it is all happening.
On a park bench we see someone's Athabascan
grandmother, folded up, smelling like 200 years
of blood and piss, her eyes closed against some
unimagined darkness, where she is buried in an ache
in which nothing makes

We keep on breathing, walking, but softer now,
the clouds whirling in the air above us.
What can we say that would make us understand
better than we do already?
Except to speak of her home and claim her
as our own history, and know that our dreams
don't end here, two blocks away from the ocean
where our hearts still batter away at the muddy shore.

And I think of the 6th Avenue jail, of mostly Native
and Black men, where Henry told about being shot at
eight times outside a liquor store in L.A., but when
the car sped away he was surprised he was alive,
no bullet holes, man, and eight cartridges strewn
on the sidewalk
                        all around him.

Everyone laughed at the impossibility of it,
but also the truth. Because who would believe
the fantastic and terrible story of all of our survival
those who were never meant
                                                to survive?

-Joy Harjo
Used by permission.
From She Had Some Horses
(W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).


Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is an internationally known poet, performer, writer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Her seven books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975 - 2002, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses, all published by W.W. Norton. Her most recent books are a memoir, Crazy Brave (W.W. Norton, 2012), and Soul Talk, Song Language Conversations with Joy Harjo (Wesleyan Press, 2011). Her poetry has garnered many awards including the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, 1998 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Harjo co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women's writing: Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Native Women's Writing of North America, one of the London Observer's Best Books of 1997, and has written award-winning books for children and young adults. Harjo also performs a one-woman show, "Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light," which premiered at the Wells Fargo Theater in Los Angeles in 2009 with other performances at the Public Theater in NYC and LaJolla Playhouse. She writes a column "Comings and Goings" for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News and lives in Glenpool, OK.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joy Katz on Whiteness

Writing Whiteness: An Interview with Joy Katz on Post No Ills

Photo of Joy Katz
Photo by: Star Black, 2011

2012 2nd Place Poetry Contest Winner, Elizabeth Hoover, recently interviewed Joy Katz about whiteness, race, and her new project (tentatively titled "Frayed") for Post No Ills Magazine.

"I can’t make whiteness go away, but I can find out how it came to envelop my life, and try to fray it. Maybe I can poke a hole in it big enough to fit myself through and stand on the other side. It is hard to perceive something that has been invisible to me for so long."

Read the full, illuminating interview here.

Katz will be on the panel "Calling Whiteness to Account" on Friday March 28th from 2:00-3:30pm in room 300 of the Charles Sumner School at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2014.

ELIZABETH HOOVER is the assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. Her author interviews and book reviews have appeared in the Paris Review Daily, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News, among others.

JOY KATZ is the author, most recently, of All You Do is Perceive, a Stalecher Selection at Four Way Books and a National Poetry Series finalist. Her other collections are The Garden Room (Tupelo) and Fabulae (Southern Illinois). Her honors include an NEA fellowship, a Stegner fellowship, and a Pushcart residency at Jentel. She teaches in the graduate writing programs at Carlow University and Chatham University and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and young son.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Split This Rock Poetry Festival Social Change Book Fair

Saturday, March 29, 2014
10:30 am - 4 pm
Human Rights Campaign, Equality Forum
1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC


In addition to Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2014 readings, panels, workshops, and opportunities to build community across barriers, this year we will also showcase the significant role of publishers and those who bring us the kinds of writing Split This Rock celebrates: impassioned, visionary, and truth-telling. And we will bring the critically important work of social change groups to poets, activists, and the public.

Browse the Book Fair on Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Forum to check out small presses, reviews, and organizations with a social justice focus!

Exhibitors include: 

Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here-DC 2016
The Center for Book Arts
Chapters Literary Bookstore
Do the Write Thing Foundation of DC
The MFA Program in Poetry at Drew University 
Flying Guillotine Press
Kim Jensen, US Campaign for the Academic and
Cultural Boycott of Israel
Life Success Center for Children, Youth, and Families
Plan B Press
The Poetry Game: Benefits Split This Rock's Youth Programs
Quiddity Literary Journal 
Quill Sedge Press
RedBone Press
Settlement House
Split This Rock
SRPR (Spoon River Poetry Review)
Turning the Page & Carpe Librum
The Writer’s Center / Poet Lore
Zozobra Publishing

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness is made possible in part by support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Open Society, Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz, and Nathan Cummings Foundations. Major partners are Busboys and Poets, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Teaching for Change, which also acts as the official festival bookseller. Cosponsors include the Beacon Hotel; Letras Latinas, the literary arts program of the Center for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame; Poets & Writers; the Human Rights Campaign; the Jimenez-Porter Writers House of the University of Maryland; and the Wilderness Society.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poem of the Week: Gayle Danley

Gayle Danley performs
Gayle Danley performs "Tough"
NYC-Urbana in January 2014

Gayle Danley won the 1994 National Individual Slam Poet in Ashville, NC just months after being exposed to Slam poetry. In Heidelberg, Germany, she became the 1996 International Slam Poet Champion. She launched a one-woman show, "Brilliance," touching thousands with her Slam Poetry workshops, lectures, performances and speeches. Danley has published three books: Naked, Soulfull--A Slam Poetry Study Guide, and Passionate--Poems You Can Feel. In addition to her motivational speaking and college performances, she has maintained a constant tour of elementary and secondary schools, helping students with traumatic experiences and teaching workshops on Slam poetry to all age groups. She lives in Baltimore, MD.
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, March 14, 2014

Poem of the Week: Eduardo C. Corral

Eduardo Corral    
All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands

Josefa Segovia was tried, convicted & hanged on July 5, 1851, in Downieville, California, for killing an Anglo miner, a man who the day before had assaulted her.

Are the knees & elbows  

     the first knots   
                     the dead untie?
       I swing from a rope
       to a beam. Some men
along the Yuba river
               toss coins
         into the doubling water.
                   Visible skin.
            Memorable hair.
     Imagine: coal, plow,
                     rust, century.
                 All layers
         of the same palabra.
I mistook a peach pit
               on a white dish
         for a thumbprint.
   Wolf counselor.
             Small rock.
   The knot just under
       my right ear
whispers God is gracious,
             God will

increase. The soul,
                   like semen,

the body

-Eduardo C. Corral  

Use by permission.
From Slow Lightning (Yale University Press, 2012)
Photo by: JW Stovall 

Eduardo C. Corral is a CantoMundo fellow. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Quarterly West. His work has been honored with a "Discovery"/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from Poetry, and writing residencies to the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He has served as the Olive B. O'Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University and as the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. Slow Lightning, his first book of poems, won the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, he currently lives in New York City.

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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Special Interest: War panels @ Split This Rock 2014

To help you plan your festival schedule, we broke down panels, workshops, and group readings by special interest. Check out those dealing with war below!


    Thursday 3/27:

11:30am-1pm – Charles Sumner School, Rm 101
Using Art and Poetry Created by Children and Teens in Wartime to Bring Activism for Peace into the Classroom
Merna Ann Hecht

Using examples of children’s visual art and poetry from the Spanish Civil War, Gaza, Vietnam and the former Yugoslavia, this workshop will demonstrate how this artwork is essential to effective social justice education. Poetry created by recently arrived teenage refugees from Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, and Nepal will also be introduced to further the discussion about the urgency of integrating the devastating effects of war and the possibilities for creating peace into public school curricula. Participants will write persona poems in order to experience the ways high school and college students can understand war through direct interaction with artistic expressions about the trauma of violent conflict and forced migrations. Handouts include writing prompts, poetry examples, and an extensive bibliography of children’s and young adult literature, poetry, and visual art related to war and peace.

    Friday 3/28:
4-5:30pm – Charles Sumner School, Rm 102
          Women and War/Women and Peace II
Samiya Bashir, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Melanie Graham, Robin Coste Lewis, Kim Jensen

Two years ago, we launched our first women and war/women and peace panel—and the results were powerful and well-received. The topic is hardly exhausted; in fact, that panel sparked the desire to make further critical connections between militarism and widespread violence against women. This time, we will continue to discuss the effect of systemic violence against women—and share our approaches to representing these themes in poetry. We will think about the ways that both war and non-violent resistance are enacted in social, historical, and familial matrices. Each presenter will read a few short poems and speak briefly on the critical and creative frameworks that have informed their aesthetic practices, followed by a Q&A.Saturday 3/29:

Saturday 3/29:

                   11:30am-1pm – Beacon Hotel, Beacon Room
New Vietnamese Poetry: A Group Reading & Discussion
Cathy Linh Che, Paul Tran, Ocean Vuong 
The Vietnam War continues to inform public discourse, scholarship, and national policies on race, empire, and the struggle for human rights. This layered roundtable and reading will excavate voices from the diaspora’s exiled. Three Vietnamese American poets will share their work and lead a discussion on the Vietnam War and its legacies in new Vietnamese poetry, exploring death, ghosts, belonging, displacement, memory, debt, intergenerational trauma, and sexual assault. It will examine how poetry and spoken word recover the history of marginalized peoples and the war's connection to U.S. colonialism throughout the world. Sponsored by Kundiman, an organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American poetry.

Special Interest: Environment panels @ Split This Rock 2014

To help you plan your festival schedule, we broke down panels, workshops, and group readings by special interest. Check out those dealing with the environment below!



    Thursday 3/27:

                   2-3:30pm – Wilderness Society Conference Room
              Rethinking the City: Poetic Strategies for Renewing Urban Space
Jennifer Karmin, Claudia La Rocco, Pireeni Sundaralingam

Urban lives are designed and controlled as never before. This round-table brings together a diverse range of poets from different schools of poetry whose work is united in challenging the homogeneity of cities, and whose work and practices create new ways to visualize and interact with the landscapes in which we live. The round-table will provide a much-needed platform through which to compare the artistic interventions being used in different cities, and to examine how individual citizen-artists can play a role in reshaping urban environments through their art.

                   4-5:30pm – Wilderness Society Conference Room
The Environment in Crisis: Poetry & Activism
Ann Waldman, Ross Gay, Wang Ping, Melissa Tuckey

We recently passed 400 parts per million of Co2 in the atmosphere, bringing us close to the number 450, which climate scientists warn we must avoid. Environmental regulations have been rolled back or disappeared. Oil and gas development in the US is ravaging our water systems and air. A former head of Monsanto now runs the FDA. All these problems are connected, none is more urgent than any other, and all are linked to social justice problems. Time for a major paradigm shift! What are poets doing? What can poets do? Panelists will discuss their eco-poetic activism and brainstorm ways to come together as a community around this growing crisis.

    Friday 3/28:

                   2-3:30pm – Wilderness Society Conference Room
Re-Imagining the Nature Poem: Post-Pastoral, Post-Colonial, Eco-Spectacle, Eco-Justice Poetry
Melissa Tuckey, Ravi Shankar, Gregory Pardlo, Maria Melendez Kelson, Natalie Diaz

European Romantic conventions continue to influence American conceptions of nature – as outside of ourselves, as depoliticized, a place to meditate in tranquility, a place to prove one’s independence or manhood. Poets on this panel bring a wide range of cultural traditions to the table and are writing stylistically diverse poetries. They will read their own work and discuss the origins of nature poetry in multiple cultural traditions, with an eye for how our conceptions about nature have (or haven’t) changed over time. What role has poetry played in shaping these conceptions? What shifts are in motion? What role might the imagination play in healing our relationships to one another and to the planet? What role might language play?

    Saturday 3/29:

                   11:30am-1pm – Wilderness Society Conference Room
Extending the Circle of Compassion: Including Non-Human Animals in Social Justice Poetry
                        Kazim Ali, Ross Gay, Gretchen Primack, Gabriel Gudding

Philanthropist and philosopher Albert Schweitzer encouraged people to "extend (their) circle of compassion" to include animals, and fellow activists from Coretta Scott King to Cesar Chavez to Ghandi to Dick Gregory to Breeze Harper have done the same. This panel's poets will discuss how and why to include themes of non-human animals in poetry of provocation and witness, and also read work – their own and others' – on this theme. All participants have thought deeply about and written extensively on these topics, and the choices they have made in their lives reflect these values.

Special Interest: Youth panels @ Split This Rock 2014

To help you plan your festival schedule, we broke down panels, workshops, and group readings by special interest. Check out those dealing with youth below!


    Thursday 3/27:

11:30am-1pm – Human Rights Campaign, Rm 105A
Engaging Youth with Slam & Spoken Word Poetry
Jonathan B. Tucker, Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo

As performance poetry and slam competition grow in popularity, many organizations are using the energetic and entertaining format of slam to engage, inspire, and motivate young students. In this interactive workshop, Split This Rock’s award-winning youth workers will discuss the benefits and challenges of slam poetry programs and facilitate dialogue among participants about best practices and how to reach and motivate more students using poetry.

                   4-5:30 – Charles Sumner School, Rm 300
Disturbing the Piece: A Dialogue on Activism & Art with Young Splitistas
Jonathan B. Tucker, members of the DC Youth Slam Team

Young people have often led the way for major social movements, in the U.S. and abroad. This discussion will bring together young poets and activists for a facilitated dialogue about the current state of youth activism as it relates to our art. Adults (anyone over 20) are welcome to witness, but will not be allowed to speak. Using the fishbowl style, the young people will sit in the center of the circle and the adults will sit outside, while the conversation is guided by DC Youth Slam Team coach and Split This Rock youth programs coordinator, Jonathan B. Tucker.

Friday 3/28:
                   4-5:30pm – Human Rights Campaign, Rm105A
Fly Language: A Writing Workshop Led by the DC Youth Slam Team

Teenage poets from Split This Rock’s award-winning DC Youth Slam Team lead this writing workshop for all ages. These young poets will impress and inspire you. Come ready to write and share and have fun.

Saturday 3/29:
2-3:30pm – Beacon Hotel, Beacon Room
Spit Dat: A Youth Open Mic

Young poets (20 and under) are invited to share their poetry in a lively and supportive atmosphere. Hosted by Dwayne B., “The Crochet Kingpin,” co-host of DC’s longest-running open mic, the Legendary Spit Dat, this open mic will feature the teens of the 2013 DC Youth Slam Team, ranked 2nd-in-the-nation after their performance at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. Co-hosted by featured poet Gayle Danley!