Thursday, September 25, 2014

Poem of the Week: Chen Chen

Set the Garden on Fire

for Jeanette Li

My friend’s new neighbors in the suburbs
are planting a neat row of roses
between her house & theirs.

Her neighbors smile, say the roses are part
of a community garden project, that’s all.
But they whisper, too—whisper plans for trees,
a wall of them. They plant rumors
that her house is hiding illegals, when it’s aunts
& uncles, visiting. They grow tall accusations
fed by talk radio, that her house was bought
with drug money, not seventeen years of woks
sizzling, people serving, delivering, filing,
people scrubbing, refilling, running—her family
running the best restaurant in town.
Like with your family, my friend says, once we
moved in, they stopped calling us
hardworking immigrants.
Friend, let’s really move in, let’s

plunge our hands into the soil.
Plant cilantro & strong tomatoes,
watermelon & honey-hearted cantaloupe,
good things, sweeter than any rose. 
Let’s build the community garden
that never was. Let’s call the neighbors
out, call for an orchard, not a wall.
Trees with arms free, flaming
into apple, peach, pear—every imaginable,
edible fire.

Come friend, neighbor,
you, come set the garden on fire
with all our hard-earned years, tender labor
of being here, ceaseless & volcanic
making of being here, together. 

Used by permission.

Chen Chen is a University Fellow in poetry at Syracuse University, where he also serves as Poetry Editor for Salt Hill. His work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, DIAGRAM, Connotation Press, PANK, Chelsea Station, CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art & Action, Nepantla: A Journal for Queer Poets of Color, among other places. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Tent: Creative Writing, and the Saltonstall Foundation.

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

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.