Monday, June 30, 2014

A Letter From Kit Bonson, Split This Rock Board Member & Newly Reborn Poet!

Greetings Friend, 

As a Board member of Split This Rock, I spend time throughout the year helping my colleagues assess how well our events have gone and their impact on participants. Since this was a Festival year, it was damn easy to conclude at our Spring Board meeting that we had just put on a kickass gathering of some of the greatest socially-engaged poets in the world

If you were lucky enough to be with us in DC this March, you know exactly what I mean. Not only did the Festival run like clock-work, but the camaraderie between attendees was amazing.

When the Board went around the meeting table after the Festival, sharing what influenced us the most, many mentioned a particular session that moved them. Maybe it was a daring poem that was read, or an intense discussion that made an impression. 

When it came to my turn, though, I shared something a little different. I told my Board friends that over those four days, I'd found my poetic voice again.

STR board
Split This Rock staff & board celebrate after Sunday's final reading at the 2014 festival. Kit is second from the right, in the back row.

You see, I had put away my own writing for almost 20 years, not knowing how to incorporate a lyrical reality with my life as a scientist and an activist. But being among other politically-minded poets changed that. I saw that I could capture the poems in my head in a way that enhanced, not detracted from, everything else that went on in my life.

For me, this is the essence of why Split This Rock is so important. It brought me back to a place of community and artistic expression, in ways that are socially meaningful. I believe it brings all of us home to our commonalities, so that the poems we share help us overcome feeling separated from each other and perhaps even from ourselves.

Which is why I feel so comfortable asking you to donate to Split This Rock as we close out our fiscal year. You are already part of this tremendous community that we happily create and develop. Now I'd like to ask you to support us financially as well.

Please contribute today online. Or you can send a check made out to Split This Rock to: 

1112 16th Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

With gratitude & solidarity,
Kit Bonson

Newly reborn poet
Split This Rock Board member

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poem of the Week: Kevin Simmonds

Ars Poetica

I can write a poem
to the limbs of a grandmother
seeded in a scorched field
where her house stood
before the drone

I can write as her left arm singing
to its hand
Calm now, she's gone

Some man
I'm almost certain
it's a man
can write a memo
about this field
left foot tapping impatiently

His memo isn't a poem
but who said it had to be

-Kevin Simmonds 
Used by permission.
From Bend to it (Salmon Poetry, 2014)  

Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include the full-length collections Bend to it (Salmon Poetry, 2014) and Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry, 2011), and the edited works Ota Benga Under my Mother's Roof (University of South Carolina, 2012) and Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press,  2011). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as the Japanese-Noh inspired Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. His films have been shown at international festivals, including MIXNYC, SF Frameline, Provincetown International Film Festival, Barcelona's MiMi Festival and Hong Kong's InDPanda. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Brooklyn, Japan and San Francisco.


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, June 20, 2014

Poem of the Week: Jan Beatty

Jan Beatty photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Sticking It to the Man

Lateeka's working, my favorite teller--
she's got wild nail art & fire red/
feather extensions.
In line: young guy in hi-tops w/ipod,
black blazer girl on her lunch hour.
Lateeka & I always talk hair & makeup,
she's in school for accounting.
A guy with 20-inch arms in a Hines Ward jersey/
cut off at the sleeves,
a white-haired woman with
a cane & her daughter
--no suits.
Restaurant guy walks up to the window
with a bagful of receipts--
the blonde teller working the line
leaves her post & exits side-door,
so it's Lateeka & people
roll their eyes & grumble:
Oh great, now there's only one teller up there.
Steeler guy shakes his head:
Jesus Christ, do you believe this?
Daughter to mother:
Why don't you sit down?
Blazer girl turns:
I'm late for an appointment.
Steeler guy waves his massive arms wide
like he's going out for a pass:
Hey, I got an idea--
why don't we shut this shit down & open up a bank?
We turn to see his arms jabbing the air
like he's trying to grab it down--
his neck red with rage.
He barrels out the door & we bust into
laughing, the air full with mutiny:
1 new spot open, we inch forward like
fat cattle, clutching our checks
a little less tightly.
We have won for the day,
we are sticking it to the man.
-Jan Beatty    
Used by permission.
From The Switching Yard (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013).   

Photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis. 

Jan Beatty's fourth full-length book, The Switching/Yard, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in February, 2013. Other books include Red Sugar, finalist for the 2009 Paterson Poetry Prize; Boneshaker, finalist, Milton Kessler Award; Mad River, Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize-all published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Individual poems have appeared in journals such as TriQuarterly, Gulf Coast, Court Green, and Best American Poetry 2013. She was a featured poet at the 2010 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

Beatty worked as a waitress for fifteen years, and as a welfare caseworker, an abortion counselor, and a social worker and teacher in maximum-security prisons. She is the managing editor of MadBooks, a small press that has published a series of books and chapbooks by women writers. For the past twenty years, Beatty has hosted and produced Prosody, a public radio show on NPR affiliate WESA-FM featuring the work of national writers. She has lectured in writing workshops across the country, and has taught at the university level for over twenty years at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Carlow. Beatty directs the creative writing program at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the MFA program.

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, June 19, 2014

Local Upcoming Fundraising Events - Help Support Us!

Split This Rock needs your support to bring poetry to the center of public life. We're also asking for support to send the amazing young poets of the DC Youth Slam Team to Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Philadelphia, PA this July!

Last year the team made it to final stage -- where they placed 2nd! Invest in their journey this year by supporting Split This Rock at two upcoming events. We count on our passionate family. If you can't make it to either event please contribute today online!
20% for Poetry!
July 1 - 6-8pm
Dine @ Roti - 1629 K St. NW
Roti food

Dine at the Roti Mediterranean Grill (ONLY the location at 1629 K Street in DC) on July 1, 6 - 8pm, to help raise money for Split This Rock! Roti will donate 20% of what is spent by patrons participating in the fundraiser to Split This Rock.

To ensure that your purchase is credited correctly, you'll need to present a flyer for the fundraiser to the cashier so be sure to get one BEFORE entering the restaurant. A Split This Rock representative will be outside of the restaurant on July 1 or you can contact Camisha Jones at Split This Rock (
) to have a card sent to you prior to the event!

RSVP on our Facebook page

David vs. Goliath Poetry Slam 
July 6 - 5-8pm
@ Penn Social, 801 E St. NW

The members of the DC Youth Slam Team take on the adults of the Beltway Poetry Slam in this fundraiser to help both teams travel to compete nationally! Come out for an evening of friendly competition, words, food, and drink!

Tickets: $10 in advance. Buy yours now!
$20 on the day of the event.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Call for Eco-Justice Poems

Split This Rock cofounder Melissa Tuckey seeks poems for Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology to be published by University of Georgia Press. She will consider both previously published and unpublished work. Deadline is July 30th.  
The anthology will include poems at the intersection of social justice and the environment, poems that recognize our human impact on the natural world as well as the political and cultural dimensions of our relationship to the environment.
I’m looking for nature poems on topics such as migration, exile, gentrification, war, food justice, farming, resource extraction, privatization, environmental health, relations with the nonhuman world, climate change, as well as poems that celebrate our connections to the natural world and to each other, new roots and paradigms: community building, urban gardens, farmer’s markets, healthy foods, homesteading (urban, suburban, and rural), protest, resistance, peace-making.   Other topics that fit within the theme are welcome.
The anthology will be multi-cultural, international, and will include both contemporary poetry and poems of our fore-bearers.
To submit poems send them by email to as a word attachment with your name & contact info on the poems.  Please note on your submission, any publication or copyright info on the poems.  Submit up to 5 poems.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poem of the Week: Regie Cabico

Regie Cabico  
A Queerification

for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall

queer me     
shift me     
transgress me   
tell my students i'm gay    
tell chick fil a i'm queer  
tell the new york times i'm straight    
tell the mail man i'm a lesbian   
tell american airlines  
i don't know what my gender is   
like me 
liking you 
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love 
elbow to forearm in the dark    
humor me queerly    
fill me with laughter   
make me high with queer gas      
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment 
like the blood my blood   
that has mixed w/  the colonizer
 & the colonized    
in the extinct & instinct to love  
bust memories of water & heat 
& hot & breath 
beating skin on skin fluttering    
bruise me into vapors    
bleed me into air    
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica  
explode me from the closet of my fears   
graffiti me out of doubt     
bend me like bamboo   
propose to me   
divorce me   
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit 
& shadow me  w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses  beyond head  
heart chakras   
fist smashing djembes   
between my hesitations    
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki     
de-ethnicize me    
de-clothe me     
de-gender me in brassieres 
& prosthetic genitalias   
burn me on a brazier    
wearing a brassiere    
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass    
magnificat me in vespers 
of hallelujah & amen    
libate me in halos 
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors    
announcing my hiv status
or your status   
i am not afraid to love you     
implant dialects as if they were lilacs   
in my ear   
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you   
so demand me       
reclaim me     
queerify me
-Regie Cabico   
Used by permission.
Photo by Les Talusan 

Regie Cabico  is one of the country's leading innovators and pioneers of poetry and spoken word, having won 3 top prizes in the 1993, 1994 & 1997 National Poetry Slams. Bust Magazine ranked him in the 100 Men We Love, and The Kenyon Review called him "the Lady Gaga of Poetry." He won a 2006 Best Performance Art Production award for his work on "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind." He has appeared on two seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam and NPR's Snap Judgement. His work is published in over 40 anthologies including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He has taught at Urban Word NYC, Poets House, Kundiman, and Split This Rock, and has served as faculty at Banff Arts Center's Spoken Word Program. Regie curates and co-hosts La Ti Do: A Weekly Cabaret & Spoken Word Series. He received the Writers for Writers Award for his work with at-risk youth from Poets and Writers. With Brittany Fonte, he co-edited a collection of North American and United Kingdom queer poetry, Flicker and Spark, a 2014 Lambda Literary Award Nominee for Best Anthology.

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, June 11, 2014

45 Years and Counting: When Poetry Meets Stonewall by 2014 Chavez Fellow, Shayla J.

The weekly writing workshops held at MLK library every Tuesday, hosted by Split This Rock, have always been quite popular amongst the youth. It’s a place where teens are welcome to come and partake in the magical process of writing poetry. It provides one with a safe environment where one can share their thoughts and opinions without being judged or ridiculed.  However, things took an interesting turn on the second Tuesday in June. 
This particular workshop, hosted by Alison K.(20), and Devyn J.(18), two Split This Rock interns, was themed completely around the Stonewall Riots that happened in  New York over 45 years ago. The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred June 28, 1969. Consequently, Alison and Devyn wanted to theme the workshop around the Stonewall Riots to give the youth a little history lesson on how the LGBT movement got started. 
During the workshop two videos were played. The first gave the history surrounding the riots while the second was an interview with a transgender woman who was part of the uprising. As the videos were played, you could feel the sense of empathy in the room. Everyone was affected by the information they were taking in, many of them for the first time. 
Once the videos were over, Alison and Devyn read two poems aloud to everyone. The first poem was entitled Pride written by Ashley Catharine while the second was an excerpt from A Place I Never Been: Especially for Malcolm X  written by Louis Reyes Rivera. Afterwards, everyone was given the task to either personify liberation or to personify one of the items used during the Stonewall Riots. We were given 20 minutes to write a poem using one of the two prompts given. Following the completion of the poems, each individual shared their piece with the group. Towards the bottom of this article you can view an excerpt from the poem that I wrote in response to the prompts. 
The workshop was enjoyable as always but I particularly appreciated the fact that I was being educated on a topic that is very much relatable and relevant to society today. Theming the workshop around the Stonewall Riots afforded the youth with the chance to learn about a major part of the LGBT civil rights movement that they might not learn about in their everyday history class. It also demonstrated how spoken word can effectively influence or spark change within a group of people. This might have been the first themed writing workshop but I look forward to attending many more in the near future.
The following is an excerpt from the poem that I wrote for the prompt: 
I was 25¢ short of 2 hours
Seconds and minutes seemed to tick by without a care
people walk past me and don’t even acknowledge my existence
I am merely a bystander
              The clock strikes midnight
 I’m 10¢  too full and gravity is starting to weigh me down

Doors burst open
Screams so loud they’re only audible to the stealthiest of bats
Tears sting rosy red cheeks flustered by worthlessness
The time keeps on ticking
Faster and faster it seems like its haunting me 

I try to move but I’m stuck under the rubble of my insecurities
WAIT...I hear footsteps 
Clasped fingertips leave me gasping for air
“I’m FREE!”
I no longer feel the weight of my rubble

Metal collides with skin
Why does the pain feel so good?
The luscious liquid leaking from his forehead tastes an awful lot like Kool-Aid
Their screams fall on deaf ears
Another body goes down
Flesh meets asphalt
I didn’t know pigs could bleed the brightest color of the rainbow

Written by Shayla J.(17), 2014 Chavez Fellow with Split This Rock.