The Syntax of Split This Rock 2010
March 10, 2010, marked the start of the second Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC. The Dresser who has been laying low studying Mandarin has made room for this important event. You may remember she covered the first Split This Rock that was made viscerally poignant by the participation of Dennis Brutus who split rocks with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island where they were both political prisoners of the South African government.
Because there are events starting early that the Dresser hopes to attend today, she will give you the skin of a reading delivered last night by prominent poets of social consciousness. The reading began with short deliveries by Holly Bass, Beny Blaq, and Derrick Weston Brown, poets-in-residence at DC's Busboys & Poets, a small restaurant chain whose owner Andy Shallal has generously supported the voices of poetry since 2005 when he opened the flagship location at 14th & V Streets, NW, DC. Shallal is also generously supporting Split This Rock 2010.
"Summer time in Brooklyn" was the line Beny Blaq crooned about a woman who had never been to his hometown but who seemed to have captured everything good about Brooklyn. The Dresser loved his musicality in this poem.
Derrick Weston Brown generously opened with a poem by the recently lost Lucille Clifton. These lines became indelible in the Dresser's thoughts: "Remember each day is a draft. Remember to forgive yourself and then you can write."
Holly Bass followed suit with a poem Clifton wrote about the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah that puts apples and honey on the celebration table - "what is not lost is paradise." Bass got the Dresser's full attention with her own poems, including an odd and somewhat outrageous piece about having the "domestic" gene for cleaning. The Dresser will have to ponder what the big metaphor is and why it made her think of the Chinese who live in communal housing around the Forbidden City in Beijing. Bass also did an audience participation poem where the assembled were asked to respond to her signal and chant "In the District." In this jazzy, syncopated poem, we got a tour of Holly Bass's Washington, DC.
The featured readers of this program were: Cornelius Eady, Andrea Gibson, and Wang Ping. Here's the skin again in the order they appeared:
Wang Ping gave the audience a slice of China post Mao Zedong (jewelry workers dying from quartz dust, wild pheasants -- prostitutes--and blue houses--brothels) as well as a look at what a Chinese woman writing in English can achieve much to the negative review of Helen Vendler who says non-native speakers of English cannot write poetry in English.
Cornelius Eady gave the audience Aretha Franklin's inaugural hat and a view of Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem both present at Barrack Obama's inauguration.
Andrea Gibson sent emotional ripples across the bodies of her audience with poems about the damage being done to our soldiers in the current wars. The Dresser has not ever heard more compelling poems about this topic and Gibson's delivery was riveting.
Here's the poem Wang Ping wrote in defiance of literary critic Helen Vendler
She walks to a table
She walk to table
She is walking to a table
She walk to table now
What difference does it make
What difference it make
In Nature, no completeness
No sentence really complete thought
Language, like woman
Look best when free, undressed.
from Of Flesh & Spirit
Copyright © 1998 Wang Ping