Friday, November 30, 2012

Split This Rock appalled by outrageous life sentence for Qatari ‘Jasmine poet’

Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami - also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday, in what Amnesty International calls "an outrageous betrayal of free speech."  He has been detained since his November 2011 arrest on charges of "insulting" the Emir and inciting overthrow of the government following publication of "Jasmine Poem," which criticized repressive governments in the Gulf region. 

“All the information available points to Mohammed al-Ajami being a prisoner of conscience who has been placed behind bars solely for his words. Accordingly, he should be released immediately and his conviction quashed,” said Philip Luther, AI's Middle East and North Africa director.

Poem of the Week: Pages

Ma Mere n'a Jamais eu des ailes 
(My momma never had wings)
Ma Mere n'a Jamais eu des ailes
My momma never had wings

But she could tap dance on hurricanes
And played poker with death
She couldn't teach me how to be a good man
But taught me how to be a good human being
How to sit up right, stand up straight, walk tall, face forward
Be proud of who you are, aint much God left in this world
But treat the world like there's still plenty God left in you

Ma Mere n'a Jamais eu des ailes

But she's always had this global warming smile
Told me to love only a woman
who could melt the polar ice caps of your past
Sat me down one day and exclaimed
"you better treat a woman as you would treat me, because if you don't
I will be on the next plane to slap you back into this country,
You are a Cameroonian man, we do not do that shit"

My mother
just said

But then she continued,
beware of the tempting ballad of Jazzy Belles
With Tuba lips, trombone legs and a bass line
That could turn any man into a crooked song
So make sure to never sleep with no one else's bones
but your own.

My momma never had wings
She believed if you try too hard to reach for the sun
You will end up in flames. Do not be a handsome shadow of Icarus...sun
Learn how to stay grounded...sun
Teach trees about their roots, and never give the world your tears
Only smiles gift-wrapped in forgiveness
Cuz Mama said, a "Hater" just a person with their "Heart" all jumbled up.
Their self worth drowning in a sea of simulation
turning the oceans in their chests, into puddles of insecurities.
Because those who show you no love, 
are usually the ones who need to see it the most

Ma Mere n'a Jamais eu des ailes
My momma never had wings

But damn she could fly
Could care less about gravity
When she could bend space and time between her fingertips
She wears the fabric of the universe like a second skin.
Her first, being her will to always survive.

Used by permission.

PAGES is a wordsmith residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. His features have included The Kennedy Center, colleges and universities such as Columbia University, & BETJ Lyric Café. He has shared stages with Ainsley Burrows and Oveous Maximus, and opened for Andrea Gibson, Raheem DeVaughn, Chrisette Michelle, & Afrika Bambaata, to name a few. Pages is also founder and co-president of Da Movement Poetz, a performance based arts group geared towards reaching young adults via the arts. In addition to winning multiple local slams, he is the 2010 & 2012 DC Grand Slam Champion, two-time member of the Busboys and Poets DC Slam Team & Beltway Slam Team, and he co-hosts GraffitiDC, one of D.C.’s premier slam series presented by Beny Blaq Entertainment. Currently, if he is not somewhere rocking a stage, Pages works as a creative writing teacher and leads workshops throughout various universities, and elementary to high schools as a Teaching Artist for Split This Rock.  

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Alan King & Reuben Jackson at Sunday Kind of Love 12/16

 Sunday Kind of Love
Alan King &
Reuben Jackson 
Alan King   Reuben Jackson 
Sunday December 16, 2012
Busboys and Poets
2021 14th St. NW
Washington, DC

Hosted by:
Sarah Browning & Katy Richey
As always, open mic follows!

Alan King is an author, poet, and journalist who lives in the DC metropolitan area. He writes about art and domestic issues on his blog at In addition to teaching at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, he's also the senior program director at the DC Creative Writing Workshop, a Cave Canem fellow, and VONA Alum. Alan is currently a Stonecoast MFA candidate and has been nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Drift (Aquarius Press, 2012) is his first book.
Reuben Jackson lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches English at Burlington High School. He's also the host of Friday Night Jazz With Reuben Jackson on Vermont Public Radio. For 20 years, he worked as a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. He's had poems published in 25 anthologies and in a long-gone volume of verse entitled fingering the keys.

Co-Sponsored by Busboys and Poets

Split This Rock

For more information:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Poem of the Week: Margaret Rozga


Prayer at Plymouth Church
Let there be drums and harps,
piccolos and flutes, violins,
banjos and guitars.

Let there be hands clapping,
joyous voices, glad steps
open arms, open hearts.

Let us be like Amos proclaiming trouble
for those who turn justice into wormwood.
Let us tend sycamores and gather herbs.

Let no guns enter.

Let there be light.
Let us be the light.

In the name of the creator
In the names of all the prophets
let us pray
make peace.

-Margaret Rozga
Used by permission.

Margaret (Peggy) Rozga has published two books, the award-winning Two Hundred Nights and One Day and her new book Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad, poems responding to her Army Reservist son’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She presented and discussed Baghdad at Split This Rock 2012. Currently she is completing a new manuscript, Justice   Freedom   Herbs. She teaches poetry workshops and works as a private writing coach.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Split This Rock

Friday, November 16, 2012

Poem of the Week: Yvette Neisser Moreno


A Question of Friendship  

Something tender about skin
and muscle framed by ancient stone.

The pyramids behind us in silhouette,
solid, rooted, entirely diagonal.

The night deepened,
the city's glimmer distant.

Fadi drew on his smoke.
Do you support Israel?

I took a deep breath,
listened to the desert hum,

felt the weight of silence.
Would the night weave my love

for Israel and Palestine
into some kind of logic?

I hoped the truth would be enough.
Yes, and the Palestinian cause.

Time stopped ticking
as I waited for an answer:

his half-smoked cigarette
flung from mouth to sand,

that flick of the wrist,
straightening of the elbow,

and the glint of that tiny fire
shimmering against the darkness.

Alright, he said.

We walked on into the long night,
wending down an unmarked path.

-Yvette Neisser Moreno
Used by permission.
From Grip (Gival Press, 2012). 
First published in Foreign Policy in Focus.

Yvette Neisser Moreno's first book of poetry, Grip, won the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award, and in 2012 she was the first runner-up for the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beauty by Luis Alberto Ambroggio, and she recently founded the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT). With a specialization in the Middle East, she has worked as an international program coordinator, writer, editor, and translator, and has taught at GW, Catholic University, The Writer's Center, and other institutions. Yvette serves on Split This Rock's programming committee and leads the ongoing campaign to get more poetry reviews in the Washington Post Book World and other newspapers.  

Yvette will launch Grip at Sunday Kind of Love, this Sunday November 18th from 5-7pm at Busboys and Poets 14th & V location. Reading with her is fellow poet and poetry and lectures coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Teri Cross Davis. Don't miss it! Details here.  

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Split This Rock

Monday, November 12, 2012

Poem of the Week: Heather Holliger

Heather Holliger  


She and I, our silences,
hesitations--at the grocery store,
in the taxi, on the street. We love
at the margins of
a legislative building and
the touch of her hand
on my cheek.
-Heather Holliger
Used by permission.

Heather Holliger teaches writing at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, including the Aurorean, Gay & Lesbian Review, Labletter, and Sugar Mule, among others. Her work also appeared in the anthology Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory. She is a former editor of So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language & Art and has written news stories for Ms. magazine online.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Split This Rock

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review of Carlos Andrés Gómez's "Man Up"

Review of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood
Written by Sarah Lawson

Carlos Andrés Gómez has had nothing short of a book-worthy life.  From his struggle to find identity as a Colombian-American child and his parents' early divorce, to his ups and downs with love, both familial and romantic, to his time spent working as a social worker in Harlem, Gómez has volumes worth to share. Yet in his first book, Man Up, he chooses to parse these complex stories down to concise chapters to weave the story of a greater narrative: what it means to be a man.

Gómez deconstructs notions of manhood through a composite of fiercely personal and often shockingly honest stories. He challenges masculinity’s narrow framework of dealing with complicated emotions stemming from love, divorce, success, fear, failure, hurt, and how the restrictions of machismo ideals often lead to destructive behavior.

One story included in Man Up that challenges the “choke chain” of Gómez's own masculinity involves his relationships with women. Dating back to his high school hook ups and post-college escapades, Gómez leaves out no details when describing situations in which perceived frameworks of masculinity led him to keep women at arm’s length, using them for sexual pleasure or as emotional crutches, all the while professing honesty to ultimately manipulate them--and he still came out the good guy (I cringed a bit!). It is by pulling back the veil on these stories in such a precise way that Gómez examines how absurdly these notions manifest and how fear is the driving force in how the idea of masculinity is miscalculated in action.

While the voice and lens of the book is undeniably Gómez's, he uses this brilliant yet accessible narrative to look at masculinity through angles of varying races, genders, sexual orientations, and positions of privilege. The best part about this book is not only its extraordinary honesty, but the way Gómez weaves the path of his own manhood, without ever absolving himself as the ‘bad guy’ in some of these stories. He does a great job at not excusing his actions. He never claims that he is the perfect man or that he has all the answers. He simply uses his life (each chapter a novel in its own right), to put masculinity under a microscope, to challenge patterns of patriarchy, and to do some serious navigating through the complex ideals of what it truly means to “man up.”


Join us on Wednesday November 7th for a special author event with Carlos Andrés Gómez at Busboys and Poets! More info here.

Carlos Andrés Gómez  is an award-winning poet, actor and writer.  He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was named Artist of the Year at the 2009 Promoting Outstanding Writers Awards. He was a featured performer at the 2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival, and performed alongside poets from the DC Youth Poetry Slam at the festival. He costarred in the Spike Lee film Inside Man and appeared in the sixth season of HBO Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.  He lives in New York City. Man Up is his first book.

Sarah D. Lawson is the founder and slam master of the Beltway Poetry Slam, DC’s premier poetry slam. She can be found teaching writing workshops throughout the city, sharing rough drafts on open mics and hosting at Busboys & Poets 5th and K. She has served on the board of mothertongue DC, DC's women's spoken word group, and was a member of the Jenny McKean Moore Writing Workshop in poetry at the George Washington University. Sarah is coach of the Madeira poetry club, which placed second in DC's Louder Than A Bomb Teen Poetry competition. She was also a member of DC's Team Treat Yo Self, which ranked 5th at the 2012 Southern Fried Poetry Slam.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tim Seibles, National Book Award Finalist

(Photo: Helen Peppe)
We're celebrating Tim Seibles' Fast Animal being named a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry. Congrats, Tim! Check out Alan W. King's blog post, "Tim Seibles: A Product of Sweat and Patience."

Here's a few lines from Alan's blog:

"Understanding how Tim Seibles got the National Book Foundation’s attention requires some knowledge of neuroscience and of his persistence to be heard.
At any given moment, the human mind rapidly shifts between thoughts. It’s that movement Seibles is after when he’s arranging the sections of his books. “If we’re really listening, we’ll go from rage to tenderness pretty quickly,” he says in a recent phone interview. “I try to put together different kinds of poems in a section…approximately the ways in which our minds move.”

The results are five books that take readers on an exciting ride through a surprising twist of tone and subject matter on each page. This skill is one reason the National Book Foundation selected his latest collection Fast Animal as a 2012 National Book Award Finalists."

Read the full blog post here

Split This Rock Board of Directors-Seeking New Members!

Split This Rock Board of Directors
Seeking new members 

Application deadline: November 9, 2012

Split This Rock calls poets to the center of public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. From our home in the nation's capital we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination. All of Split This Rock's programs are designed to integrate poetry of provocation and witness into public life and support the poets who write and perform this critical work.  

Split This Rock is seeking dynamic, committed, social justice-oriented individuals with a love of poetry to join our Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 calendar years. This is a unique opportunity to shape the future of a thriving organization at the intersection of poetry and social change.

We currently have four openings on the Board, including a Treasurer position. Board terms are two years. Split This Rock seeks to ensure diversity on the Board consistent with our core values, and encourages candidates of color, LGBTQ candidates, and people with disabilities to apply. We are particularly looking for board members with legal, technology, and/or fundraising experience.

The Board is a "working board" which means that Board members are expected to support the general management of the organization in addition to being responsible for and/or assisting in various programming activities (including Split This Rock's biennial festival), fundraising, donor cultivation, and strategic planning efforts. Additionally, Board members are expected to participate on a committees (formal and ad-hoc) in addition to full board meetings. The Board meets quarterly, and Board membership is estimated to involve a minimum of 4-6 hours per month.

If you are interested in serving on the board, please submit your curriculum vitae or resumé and a letter of interest outlining your desire to serve on the Board to by November 9, 2012. Please make sure you include contact information. A member of the Nominations Committee will contact you to discuss your interest and answer any questions you may have.

Split This Rock 

Poem of the Week - Daniela Elza

poppies are not                 (Enough

I drink a blood sunset        down Cardinal Avenue.    
my shoes soaked poppies    my mind quiet as

a book         with a bomb         in its mouth.

was it at the bus stop         the fruit leather that hung like
a general's ribbon         from the hands of a homeless child

that reminded me of the red truth dripping down our throats?        

she wishes upon a bone moon.         the same moon
that climbs in my eye.         our gazes meet       up there:

an "almost"        neutral             territory.

her smile         a coca-cola         scar.

-Daniela Elza

Used by permission.      
Published in Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5th, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad’s “Street of the Booksellers.” Editors: Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shehabi (PM Press,Oakland, CA, August 2012)*

Daniela Elza has lived on three continents and crossed numerous geographic, cultural and semantic borders. Her work has appeared in well over 60 publications. In 2011 Daniela launched her first e-Book, The Book of It (now also in print). Daniela’s poetry collection, the weight of dew, was published by Mother Tongue Publishing (2012). Her poetry book Milk Tooth Bane Bone is forthcoming with Leaf Press (April, 2013). Daniela lives and writes in Vancouver, Canada.

*On March 5th, 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. More than thirty people were killed and more than one hundred were wounded. This locale is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Named after the famed 10th century classical Arab poet al-Mutanabbi, it has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. This anthology begins with a historical introduction to al-Mutanabbi Street and includes the writing of Iraqis as well as a wide swath of international poets and writers who were outraged by this attack.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.    

Split This Rock