March 13, 2010

Split this Rock Poetry Festival, Thursday, March 11

I did my workshop, How to Build a Poetry Reading, this AM in the front room of the Thurgood Marshall Center. There were about 10-12 folks, including the late arrivals, many from the DC area, where there apparently are lots of readings/open mics/slams already. Toni Asante Lightfoot joined me in sharing her experience running poetry events.

Hung out having lunch & typing at Busboys & Poets, then took some time off before heading to the Poetry in the Streets event in Upper Senate Park, beneath the shadow of the Capitol. A string of poets threaded our way to the stage to each recite one line of poetry, limited to 12 words, a Cento sending a message of peace & "get off your collective asses & end the war" to the members of Congress. Check out the poem at the Split this Rock Blog. Hanging out with new friends, re-connecting with old friends. My picture ended up in the pages of the Washington Post the next morning. You can also check out photos by the omni-present photographer, Jill Brazel, on the Split this Rock Facebook page & on their website.

Time for dinner & a drink & then back to the Bell Multicultural High School for the evening's reading. Mark Nowak gave a reading with slides, touching on the Sago mine disaster & mining accidents in China, in what is being called documentary poetry. Lillian Allen, who lives in Canada, performed her poems in the tradition of "Dub poetry," reggae rhythms & the early roots of hip-hop. She took on the lingo & dance rhythms of the islands, mixing in sound patterns with the words, in such poems as "Limbo Dancer," poems about women in prison, in housing projects & giving birth, even a love poem ("would love to make a revolution with you").

Francisco Aragon's poem were mostly short, evoked the spirit of Garcia Lorca & Ernesto Cardenal. His poems to us "To Madrid," & Rome ("The Tailor"), & a strange slant translation of Rilke, "Torso." Nancy Morejon is from Cuba (& the Cuban ambassador was in the house).  She read her poems in Spanish, then in translations done by others, often touching on the Afro-Cuban themes of slavery & oppression, but in the rich, colorful images often found in poetry from the Caribbean.

Once again, a wonderful, full night of poetry, but run well, the readings moving along with variety & judicious sense of time. More detailed informaton about each of the poets can be found on the website.

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