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Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness comes to the historic U Street neighborhood of Washington, D.C., March 10-13, 2010. Poets, artists, social justice activists, and community organizers from across the area and the nation will take to the stages and streets of the capital to celebrate poetry as an agent of social change.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival offers a diverse mix of programs, including poetry readings every evening on the main stage at Bell Multicultural High School, workshops and panel discussions about the intersection of poetry and social change, a book fair, films, youth programming, parties, and activism.

Featuring 24 visionary voices:

 Chris Abani
 Lillian Allen

 Sinan Antoon
 Francisco Aragón
 Jan Beatty
 Martha Collins

 Cornelius Eady
 Martín Espada

 Andrea Gibson
 Allison Hedge Coke
 Natalie Illum

 Fady Joudah
 Toni Asante Lightfoot
 Richard McCann

 Jeffrey McDaniel
 Lenelle Moïse
 Nancy Morejón

 Mark Nowak
 Wang Ping
 Patricia Smith
 Arthur Sze
 Quincy Troupe
 Bruce Weigl

Also included is Somehow Tenderness Survivies: a Tribute to Dennis Brutus, Lucille Clifton, Mahmoud Darwish, and Howard Zinn. Friends and colleagues will present remembrances and favorite poems, then attendees will be invited to add their voices, as well, as they honor these visionary world citizens.

As the country continues to grapple with two wars, the economic crisis, and social and environmental ills, Split This Rock offers participants opportunities to speak out, make common cause, and explore the many ways poets are working for change through their writing, activism, and community work. Co-Director Sarah Browning said, “At times of crisis, poetry that looks directly at our world and struggles to understand, to bridge differences, to imagine other possibilities than those endlessly repeated by politicians and pundits is more important than ever.”

A screening of cutting-edge short films that showcase how poets, writers, and activists are collaborating with visual media artists to explore critical social issues. Edited by poet, filmmaker, and Director of the Poetry Center of Chicago Francesco Levato.

A new feature is a free Social Change Book Fair. Festival participants and members of the public can explore progressive presses, literary magazines, independent newspapers, and social justice and literary organizations.

Other free events during the festival include a youth poetry open mic and the final round of competition for the D.C. Youth Slam Team, the teen poetry group that will go on to compete at the national slam competition in Los Angeles in June.

As the country reaches the milestone of  $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, festival participants will engage in peaceful action and use poetry to speak to those in power. A “public poem,” to be spontaneously created at a federal government site on the afternoon of Thursday, March 11, will imagine what the next $1 trillion could — and should — be spent on. “Based in our nation’s capital, Split This Rock provides opportunities for all who gather to speak out for a more just ordering of our nation’s priorities,” Browning said.

Split This Rock was incorporated in Washington, D.C., as a nonprofit organization in 2009. The biennial festival is just one part of Split This Rock’s larger mission. “All Split This Rock’s programs are designed to integrate poetry of provocation and witness into public life and to support the poets who are writing this vital work,” Browning said. “We collaborate with community and social change organizations, organize public events such as the festival, readings and forums, sponsor contests to promote socially engaged poetry, and provide workshops on craft and the writing life for youth and adult poets.”

For more information, visit   

Split This Rock Poetry Festival
March 10-12, 2010

1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036


Bell Multicultural High School
3101 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20010

Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street NW
Washington, DC

The Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage
1816 12th Street NW
Washington, DC

True Reformer Building
1200 U Street NW
Washington, DC

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