March 11, 2010

Split-this-Rock Festival, Wednesday, March 10

Well, here I am in our nation's capital at Split-this-Rock Poetry Festival & already I'm having a great time, & heard some marvelous poetry. The opening ceremony was at Busboys & Poets at V Street & 14th, beginning with some energetic West-African drumming by the racially-mixed Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Project. Then collaborative poetry by young women in white, the Shakti Brigade, that if I didn't hear any more poetry tonight, it would have been worth the price of admission. Andy Shallal from Busboys & Poets did the energetic intros, with Regie Cabico helping out. Co-Directors/Mother-Goddesses of this festival, Sarah Browning & Melissa Tuckey, read poems by the gone poets Mahmoud Darwish, Lucille Clifton & Dennis Brutus (who had read at the last festival, 2 years ago) to bless the event.
From there a brisk walk (or a 1-stop Metro ride) up to Bell Multicultural High School for the first of the Featured Readings, making new friends, finding friends from the last festival, on the way. First, brief readings by the poets-in-residence at each of the Busboys & Poets 3 locations, Beny Blaq, Derrick Weston Brown & Holly Bass, a fitting introduction to the fine poets of this city (what Cornelius Eady later called "a grand city for poets").

Wang Ping began with short poem/response to the critic Helen Vendler, "Syntax." Among the poems she read was "Dust Angels," about Chinese production-line workers making religious items for the West; she read the Chinese first, then in English. Cornelius Eady began with a couple poems on the Obama inagueration, "Aretha Franklin's Inaugeral Hat" & "Praise for the Inaugeral Poet." His reading was a model of how to read quietly & let the words speak for themselves. In contrast, Andrea Gibson performed nearly all of her poems in an intense, slam style, in spite of her opening disclaimer that she "don't do much slam anymore..." Her material is intense, political but I found deadened by the sameness of her performance, in spite taped muscial background for some of her poems. Still, a great start, great poets & poems.

Then home (i.e., hotel room) tired, with words still ringing in my head.

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