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Split This Rock: A Sold Out Event, Day 1

STR12Poster.jpgEven if the Dresser has said this before, she'll say it again: Sarah Browning, founding director of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival knows what she is doing and how to run a well-oiled event even if it is competing with the Cherry Blossom Festival. Take for example, the poster announcing the third biennial conference that the Dresser was greeted with as she ascended the Washington DC Metro escalators. Let's say Sarah is not your out-in-the-ether poet. No, she is grounded and is fighting for social justice through poetry.


On the street, the Dresser ran into poet and co-editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal Lee Sharkey. STR12LeeSharkey.jpgWhen asked, Lee said she had already been to some excellent panels. The Dresser knows how discriminating this poet-editor is and took this for a good sign. Additionally, the Beloit Journal is a Spit this Rock (STR) publications partner.

STR12PRESSTABLE.jpgAt the press table in the historic Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, the Dresser met Lacy MacAuley, who is the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) Media Relations Manager, and as it turned out a presenter at Writing to the Media/Writing for the Media, the panel discussion that the Dresser wanted to attend. The Dresser thought this panel would answer the question how does a poet press for social change once his/her politically charged poem is written. STR12Greco-MacAuley.jpgCertainly the panel gave lots of clues like Emily Schwartz Greco's handout "Op-Eds: Writing Tips/Placement Strategies" and Lacy's handout "How Do I Get into the News," which sorts out what is newsworthy and how to write a proper to-the-point news release. However what the panel also did was open the Dresser's eyes as to how Sarah Browning, who is an associate fellow at IPS, operates. And, yes, IPS, has a strong personnel presence at STR though is not listed as a sponsor. On the STR website, it states, "Split This Rock collaborates with the Institute for Policy Studies on an occasional basis to bring poets and social justice advocates together in the 'think tank.'" The Dresser thinks it is very important to have access to a liberal think tank if one is to achieve a new level of active poetry, poetry that can change the world.STR12Growney.jpgSTR12Youth.jpg


Next on the Dresser's list was Page & Stage: What's the Fuss?, a panel led by Regie Cabico on the struggle between spoken and written poetry. STR12McKibbens.jpgThe panel included Jeffrey McDaniel, Rachel McKibbens, and José Padua. The conversation was heavy on the spoken word side, which includes such terminology as performance poet, slam poet street poet, bar poet versus the page poet. When the question was raised to the audience about what individuals considered themselves most said both. Jeff McDaniel spoke passionately about how he had to overcome his reputation as a slam poet. "I feel like I had to be like Helen Vendler and stab, stab, stab to kill my past as a slam poet," said Jeff. Rachel McKibbens spoke to the issue of how invisible women writers are. She said, women have to just write their stories and F those who criticize. "We have to get our gears unstuck." Rachel said poetry does not come from poetry but from all sorts of sources and definitely books. Mixed into the discussion were issues of prejudice against cultural minorities and gender identity. Lisa Wijnovich, who called herself a poet farmer, said, "poets belong at the crossroads."STR12Cabico.jpgSTR12Padua-McDaniel.jpg


Dovetailing seamless with the Page & Stage panel, the Dresser's evening ended with the featured readings of Douglas Kearney, Kim Roberts, and Sonia Sanchez. STR12SarahBrowning.jpgMaster of Ceremonies Sarah Browning also introduced the young poet winner Lauryn Nesbitt and her "Poetic Hyst." Lauryn held her own with the outstanding and deeply moving readings/performances of the features. From Kim Roberts came the pineapple poem ("A pineapple is like a blind date:/spiky and armored at first"), which is part of the Beloit Poetry Journal special edition for Split This Rock. From Douglas Kearney came the singing and acting explosion of sound about such topics as the horrific killing of James Bird Jr. From Sonia Sanchez, who is clearly a griot who chants, hums, sings, came separate tributes to Sterling Brown and June Jordan. This particular festival is dedicated to June and Sarah put her voice into the room at the beginning of the reading.

By the way this year's STR is 500 strong and completely sold out. Stay tuned for another report from the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 23, 2012 12:39 PM.

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