April 22, 2016

Split This Rock, 2016 Evening Reading, Saturday, April 16

This was my last event at Split This Rock, the evening reading back in Grosvenor Auditorium at National Geographic. Sonya Renee Taylor, Member of the Split This Rock Board of Directors was the M.C., & the night’s remembered gone poet was Maya Angelou.

Gaelyn Smith was the Youth Poet for tonight, with an introspective poem in which she said “nothing I write has a gun or a body in it…” & pondered whether it was selfish to write while others die. As with the other youth poets who read throughout the Festival, her work, like theirs, should convince any doubters that great poetry will continue to be written, as long as these young writers keep writing.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, whom I’d seen earlier at the Gwendolyn Brooks panel, read 3 quietly moving poems, a love poem “Matters of the Heart,” a poem published in the April 2016 Poetry “When I Think of Tamir Rice while Driving,” & “What We Know of Horses” about his brother in prison. What struck me most was that Betts confronted the issues of race & race murders in a meditative way that others who had read earlier confronted with spit & shouts.

Speaking of quiet readers Ocean Vuong has a soft, almost whispered voice, that can lead you to a contemplative place of vivid images. He started with a poem he says he always starts with, “Head First,” in the voice of his mother if she could write a poem, then the poem he had read on Friday about his parents “A Little Closer to the Edge,” & “To My Future Son.” He finished with an equally meditative, & richly imagined “Ode to Masturbation,” to the occasional whoop & holler from some members of the audience.

Nikky Finney also showed how to write about racism in America in bright, descriptive images without smashing us over the head with her rhetoric. She began by mentioning the writer/activist Gia Shakur & read her “Ultimatum,” then her own poem as Elder giving instructions to young, black poets. Another richly descriptive poem was about 3 young black boys playing, leaping, a poem of joy but with a dark edge. Another was a love/sex poem in surreal images of the earth & fruit. She ended with 2 poems for black females, “Abondant” for the first female Iraq war death, who was a suicide,” & a new, unfinished, rough draft, as she described it, “Pirate Jenny” for the Black Girl Genius movement.

Another fabulous reading, at the end of a fabulous day, at the end of fabulous Festival — Thank movers & shakers & planners of Split This Rock! (did I say it was fabulous?).

Keep at it.

No comments: