May 1, 2018

Split This Rock — Thursday Reading, April 19

The evening readings at Split This Rock are open free to the public & are the only events where all the conference attendees gather together. Danez Smith (member of the STR Board of Directors) & Dan Vera (one of the planners of this year’s festival) had fun hosting the night’s reading.

Another feature of the readings is the inclusion of a poet from the DC Youth Slam Team & tonight Dani Miller wowed us with a poem that listed all the reasons why she was tired of writing poems on oppression (aren't we all!).

Each year, whether or not it is a festival year, Split This Rock hosts what is now called the Sonia Sanchez - Langston Hughes Poetry Contest & the winner gets to read at the featured reading. The 2018 winner of the contest was Jonathan Mendoza who read his winning poem “Osmosis” that begins with a description of the death of Prudencia Martín Gómez, who came from Guatemala & was trying to cross into California, the poem playing on water & “ICE.”

Another tradition is to play a recording of one of the gone poets & tonight it was of the Central American poet Claribel Algería, a great activist as well.

The first of the featured poets was Camille T. Dungy who began with an anti-war poem from 2003 “Daisy Cutter” (the deadly anti-personnel bomb), then one of her poems from the Split This Rock section in the April issue of Poetry “this beginning may have always meant this end.” In her poem “What We Know I Cannot Say” she thinks about the trees after the fires in the West, while “On Angel Island Immigration Station” dealt with the incarceration of immigrants here. She ended with 2 poems about children, “Frequently Asked Question #7” (on a plane with children) & a poem about her 1st year of having a child, life as a mother, poet & activist.

Javier Zamora’s poems were about being an immigrant, he having crossed the border in 1999. He began with “To Abuela Nellie,” later also a poem for his grandfather, & in between “2nd Attempt Crossing, for Chino.” He wrote about the homeless in Nogales, “Citizenship,” & a medical exam “Doctor’s Office 1st Week in this Country.” He ended with “Instructions for My Funeral.” He too has poems in the April Poetry.

Sharon Olds had been scheduled to read at the 1st Split This Rock, but she had had to cancel, & how here she is 10 years later. She also had poems in Poetry but saved a reading of one of them for later in the festival. Tonight she read from her 2016 book Odes, beginning with a poem inspired by the poet Evie Shockley “Ode to Whiteness.” Then on to some wonderfully sexy, titillating, but also tender, poems “Ode to the Hymen,” “Ode to the Clitoris,” & “Ode to the Penis,” with “Amaryllis Ode” tossed in. She ended with “For You” a poem that begins quietly enough describing her morning tray with coffee, her phone, then a bird outside, a martin, leads her to think of Trayvon Martin, everything is connected.

I could have left & come back to Albany at the end of the 1st day of Split This Rock, I felt so filled with the spirit of the festival, but there were 2 more days to come, I had to stick around.


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