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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Poems of Provocation and Witness in a D.C. Festival

By March 14, 2008

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The activist poets are gathering next week in Washington, D.C. for the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, taking as their title and motto these lines from Langston Hughes’ poem “Big Buddy”:

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.
Featuring such luminaries as Dennis Brutus, Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty, Carolyn Forché, Galway Kinnell, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alicia Suskin Ostriker and Patricia Smith, the festival was organized in response to the U.S. “crisis of imagination on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, for two purposes:
  • “To celebrate the poetry of witness and provocation being written, published, and performed in the United States today.
  • “To call poets to a greater role in public life and to equip them with the tools they need to be effective advocates in their communities and in the nation.”
Most worthy goals! The festival begins on Thursday, March 20, with informal gatherings sprinkled among the panel discussions, workshops and readings, ending on Sunday afternoon, March 23, with a silent march to the White House. If you can’t get to Washington, D.C., you can be there in spirit by reading the Split This Rock Web site and blog.

More articles on politics and poetry:
The November Third Club, a new online journal for politically inclined poets
A new & engaged review in New England, The New Hampshire Review
Neruda: Politics & poetical judgment
May the poets speak freely?
Raising Their Voices: Poets speak out against the war with Iraq
Poetry in Times Like These,” by Victor Infante, a meditation on poetry’s place and the debt of our art in the post-9.11.01 time of war & crisis
Willie Perdomo Gets Political: Where a Nickel Costs a Quarter
The Center Cannot Hold: Slam, Academia & the Battle for America’s Bourgeoisie,” also by Victor Infante, an essay on the generational cycles of poets & poetic institutions, class & politics in American poetry, slam poetry’s evolution into a new establishment.
The Beat Goes On: Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is Still a Rebel,” an interview with Ferlinghetti on the Poet as Outsider by Victor Infante
Stranded: Poet Mark Strand Preaches Political Indifference at UCI,” Victor Infante’s response to the effort to divorce poetry from politics

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