The Dresser is reporting from the front--The Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
Poet Sarah Browning with the support of the DC Poets Against the War, Institute for Policy Studies, Busboys and Poets, and Sol & Soul has pulled out all the stops to bring poetry in protest against the war in Iraq to Washington, DC. This is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq and Browning intends to make it meaningful beyond those who typically come out to protest.
Where did Browning get the name of the Festival? From the poem "Big Buddy" by 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.
- Langston Hughes
The Dresser attended the 2nd event of the first day and this was a reading featuring: Martin Espada, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye and Alix Olson.
Highlights from the reading:
From Sarah Browning: "We come together to give hope. Ethelbert Miller said, "not with our dirges but our jubilees.'" Absent from the conference due to illness are Sam Hamill and Sharon Olds.
Adrienne Rich sent a new poem entitled "Emergency Clinic" that was read by festival organizer Melissa Tuckey.
From Martin Espada who wondered about a chair standing next to the speaker's podium: "This chair is for the person who should be here to hear the truth--Dick Cheney's chair!"
From Ethelbert Miller: "The sickness of war surrounds us. Do we want to be well in 2008? Let us proclaim the wellness of peace!"
From Naomi Shihab Nye: two poems that packed big wallops--Letters our Pres won't be sending and a poem about an old Muslim woman who spoke no English who got stranded in an airport and broke down in a crying fit. Nye came to her rescue and pretty soon everyone at that gate was eating the old woman's cookies. Why can't the world be like this all the time? Nye asked.
From Alix Olson, performance poet--a breaking up with my country poem.
A view of the Split This Rock Audience including poet Alicia Ostriker.