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Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 3/20 -3/23/08 DC

Attend Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, March 20-23

Sharon Olds, Poet Laureate of New York State, Ishle Yi Park, Poet Laureate of Queens County, Galway Kinnell, Robert Bly , Lucille Clifton and Carolyn Forché, are among the many leading poets reading their work and talking about peace at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, Poems of Provocation & Witness, Thursday March 20-Sunday, March 23, in Washington, D. C., It will be a big gathering celebrating our great tradition of poetry of witness and resistance. It starts the day after March 19, the fifth anniversary of “Shock and Awe,” the onslaught of the Iraq War. It is co-sponsored by D. C. Poets Against the War, the Institute for Policy Studies, Sol & Soul, and Busboys & Poets, the latter the Washington bookstore where events start with a reception at 5 P.M., Thursday March 20.

Other featured poets are Chris August, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Melissa Best (aka Princess of Controversy), Kenneth Carroll, Grace Cavalieri, Joel Dias Porter (aka DJ Renegade), Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Brian Gilmore, Sam Hamill, Stephen Kuusisto, Semezhdin Mehmedinovic, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alix Olson, Alicia Ostriker, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Smith, Susan Tichy, Pamela Uschuk, and Belle Waring.

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr., Freeport, Poet Laureate of <Nassau County, is participating on a panel of poets laureate discussing “The Poet as Political Appointee: Oxymoron or Opportunity.”

Split This Rock Poetry Festival will feature readings, workshops, panel discussions on poetry and social change, youth programming, films, parties, walking tours, and activism—a unique opportunity to hone our activist skills while we assess and debate the public role of the poet and the poem in this time of crisis.

There will be open readings offering all attending poets chances to get their peace poetry before this large, influential audience. Registration for the full festival $75 before March 10 ($85 after March 10). The student rate is $40, $50 after March 10. Scholarships are available. Tickets sold at the door for individual readings, $8 general admission; $5 student. Contact info@splitthisrock.org Sarah Browning, coeditor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology and coordinator of the group of the same name, is Festival Director. Her first book of poems, Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, was published by The Word Works in 2007.

The Festival name comes from Langston Hughes: “Don’t you hear this hammer ring?/ I’m gonna split this rock/ And split it wide!/ When I split this rock/ stand by my side.”

“As citizens and artists, our obligation has never been greater. We call on poets of conscience to move to the center of public life as we forge a visionary new arts movement for peace and justice,” say the organizers.

“Poets have long played a central role in movements for social change,” the organizers assert. “Today, at a critical juncture in our country’s history, poetry that gives voice to the voiceless, names the unnamable, and speaks directly from the individual and collective conscience is more important than ever. The festival will explore and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.

“As we head into the fifth year of war in Iraq, our country faces a crisis of imagination. Most Americans agree that we need dramatic change: to end the war, reorder our national priorities to meet human needs, save our planet. How we address these challenges is a question not just for policy makers and strategists. It is a question for all of us. We believe that poets have a unique role to play in social movements as innovators, visionaries, truth tellers, and restorers of language.

“Poetry and the arts are also vital to youth development and empowering young people to speak out and have confidence in their voices. Our intention is to bridge differences in our city and literary community: to place on the same stage poets who work primarily on the page and poets who write primarily for performance; gay and straight poets; African American, Latino, Asian, white, and Native poets; young poets and older poets; poets with disabilities; poets of all social classes.

“We believe that as citizens and artists, our obligation has never been greater. Our intent is twofold: To call poets to a greater role in public life and to bring the vital, important, challenging poetry of witness that is being written by American poets today to a larger and more diverse audience.”

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