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2018 Split This Rock Report #5

What follows is a final Split this Rock Poetry Festival report. STR took place from April 19 through April 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. This year's biennial festival celebrated its tenth year and its sixth conference. It is the last year that founding director Sarah Browning will lead the conference. Unlike the AWP writers conference, this festival focuses exclusively on poetry, draws a smaller audience, and presents a holistic set of activities that nourishes not only the mind and emotional state of being but also the body.

Beyond the talking heads of panels and assorted intellectual workshops were such events as:

• "Louder than a Gun: Poem for Our Lives," a rally in Lafayette Park where participants were invited to bring a line of poetry that "demands an end to violence and celebrates lives free from the threat posed by guns." This rally joined with high school students in front the White House to write a group poem demanding that gun violence stop.

• "Walking Tour: The Rise of DC's Black Intelligentsia (The Dunbars in LeDroit Park," an opportunity to follow Kim Roberts, local poet historian to learn about African-American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and his wife Alice Dunbar-Nelson.

• "Resiliency in Daunting Times: A Workshop in Yoga & Writing," a workshop led by Yael Flusberg that combined the practice of yoga and spontaneous writing.

While the Dresser did not participate in the three events mentioned above, she had attended similar events in past STR festivals and was glad to see this kind of putting the physical body into motion was still being valued and retained as part of the program offerings. It also goes to what the Dresser said in STR Report #1 https://www.scene4.com/karrenlalondealenier/2018/04/2018_split_this_rock_report_1.html that it was so hard to decide what event to attend because there were so many wonderful opportunities.
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To follow up on STR Report #4, the Dresser offers a brief look at "#RedStateWritersResist: Strategies for Writing and Living in a Red State," a panel that addressed the extreme loneliness and peril of living and working in a state where the majority are conservative voters supporting the Republican Party and specifically the current president of the United States who does not support the tenets of the US constitution. Panel members Jennie Case, Meg Day, Miguel Morales, Wendy Oleson, and Maria Vasquez Boyd said their coping mechanisms include everything from channeling anger into positive action, lots of time with friends online, to nightly crying.

Here's a poem that gives the flavor of this upsetting topic of conversation:

IF YOU'RE STAYING, I'LL STAY TOO

Maybe it's easier, having been named
..........after someone: nobody
expects that you'll rule the underworld
..........or judge the dead, but
they call you Pluto anyway. Planet, too.
..........I know a girl like you
who used to be a thing she isn't anymore
..........but hasn't changed at all.
Whose orbit didn't circle straight--whose
..........size & distance never quite
seemed right--but no one cared til now.
..........I was a woman once:
rounded by my own gravity, cat-called
..........into hades by men who
could not see this gem of a hard rock
..........was not made magnetic
for the likes of them. Hey little mama--
..........don't take it so hard.
So we are frigid. So we stay relegated
..........out here with our kin.
I'll wear my fade tight & my tie loose

by Meg Day

Copyright © 2017 by Meg Day

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For the Dresser, the last day of the conference offered poetic performances and book fair activities. She heard Cornelius Eady recite and sing poems from his new Kattywompus Press chapbook All the American Poets Have Titled Their New Books "The End." Eady sounds like Bob Dillon but with a better singing voice. Here's the title poem from the new collection:

ALL THE AMERICAN POETS HAVE TITLED THEIR NEW BOOKS "THE END"

How many books now have the word Last
In their title? Or worry, or some dangling variation
Of mistake? Or empire burning, or
The fools have fucked it up?

Who the hell listens? They roar and
Wriggle, up and down the page,
They screen-print what's coming next -- pinups
Of blocked streets and stone faces.

How many books sling the word doom,
Or mimic spotlights or air raid sirens,
Regurgitate the Romans, the Kick Down the
Door Guys, our genius with the fiery furnace?

The quivers, the shakes, the iambic dread,
The anger, the insomnia, the slow tic
Of the wait, the wail, the transcribed too late,
In the manner of those who have gone before us,
Geiger counters, clacking the rising damp.

by Cornelius Eady

Copyright © 2018 by Cornelius Eady

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From the session "The Living Text: Bodies on the Line," the Dresser captured images from Roger Sedarat's performance which concerned the funeral of a nightingale. The nightingale is a large symbol in Iranian literature. Sedarat is the author of Haji as Puppet: An Orientalist Burlesque, winner of The Word Works Tenth Gate Prize. Recently Sedarat was awarded a large grant to do performance work from this book, a gesture in promoting better understanding between the literature of Iran and American. It's also a book steeped in edgy politics.

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The STR book fair was an opportunity to trade books, sell a few and by all means network.
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The Festival was a glorious marathon of poetry readings, panels, workshops, performance, political action, physical and mental exercise. Vive Split This Rock Poetry Festival!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2018 11:52 AM.

The previous post in this blog was 2018 Split This Rock Report #4.

The next post in this blog is Bernstein's Candide--Seeing Past the Candy-coated Best of All Possible Worlds.

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