March 24, 2010

Split this Rock Festival, the Last Night (Part 2), March 13

After Sarah Browning's obligatory litany of thank-yous -- it takes a poetic army of volunteers, staff, sponsors, &, of course, participants to make such a successful festival -- & I for one am so pleased & happy to have been here -- on with the finale of the poetry.

Each year, even when the festival is not happening, Split this Rock has run a poetry contest. This year it was judged by Chris Abani, who read the First Place poem, "Prague TV" by Simki Ghebremichael. Second Place was won by Marie-Elizabeth Mali, who was here, to read "Oceanside, CA." I was a little disappointed that the Third Place winner, Sonja de Vries (who had joined me for dinner) did not get to read her fine poem, "A Response to 'What's Your Sexual Orientation,'" but all the winner's poems can be found on the Split this Rock website.

Toni Asante Lightfoot had joined me on Thursday in my workshop, sharing her vast experience organizing poetry readings in Washington, DC, & now in Chicago. She began by pointing out, as she does to her young students, that Power = work over time. She read poems from a series she is writing on about Jackie "Moms" Mabley, the funny, outrageous, (x-rated) comedienne, reflecting the poet's own transformation & her time (including the taking of a new name, as the poet herself).

Martha Collins had been a part of a panel on documentary poetry. She read, again, from her book Blue Front, about her father growing up in Cairo, Ohio & of the lynching there, stringing the poems together. She continued with excerpts from her new work, White Papers, which continues beyond the story of her father with the deeper question of what the lynchings had to do with her, a white woman, exploring racism.

Sinan Antoon writes in Arabic & English, & has also translated Mahmoud Darwish. His mostly short poems included watching soldeirs at El Paso airport, or a homeless veteran outside his office ("A Sign"), or about the street of bookshops in Baghdad that was bombed by the US. One poem ("Phosphorus") contrasted his bike when a kid & the after-effects of the use of white phosphorus in the attack on Fallujah, while "To an Iraqi Infant" could have been written for an infant in Haiti, or Gaza or wherever there is war whose victims are always children. All was not death & destruction, as he included some short, erotic poems.

Chris Abani, the last poet of the festival, began with a joke told to him by the late Dennis Brutus who had read at the first Split this Rock festival, & anecdotes about Darwish, & read one of his poems. He began with what he said was his one love poem, "1971." He read a long series of poems filled with Christian religious images, & meditations on race, & Los Angeles. His reading a quiet end to the festival, like breath going out.

I left with my head was reeling & it was late I couldn't drag myself to the grand party at the end. I needed to be quiet & alone with my notes, my photos, my memories, & my gratitude for being here among so many great poets. Thank you, Split this Rock. I await the next gathering in 2012, deo volente.

1 comment:

Toni said...

Hey Dan, It was so great to be in on the workshop you gave. Your handouts were concise and easy to implement. I hope to see you again and to share poems between us.

Toni Asante lightfoot