Sunday, October 28, 2007


Dulce et Decorum Est

A poem that can never be recited too often.

Standing before a recruiting station yesterday morning in the rain: We sent a coffin on a sad journey to Philadelphia, where thousands were gathering to demand an end to this wretched war. One of our group read Wilfred Owen's terrible description of a comrade attacked by chemical gas in WWI. The poem ends,

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The old lie: How sweet and right it is to die for one's country.

Listen to the poem read beautifully as part of the radio comic strip 11 Central Ave here:

For more on the radio show:

Read Martín Espada's commentary on the poem, reposted on this blog in April:

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Help Us Build the Republic of Poetry

Dear Friend,

In the republic of poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

- Martín Espada, “The Republic of Poetry”

Now that’s my kind of republic, one that values the beauty and power of the word above the ugly indignity of the metal detector. Will you help us build it?

Support Split This Rock at

For four days in March, poets will be descending on our city, helping make it a true republic of poetry. Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness will hit the streets of Washington on the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, March 20-23, 2008. We’ll be giving readings, learning from one another in workshops, panels, and meet-ups, celebrating the rich history of socially engaged poetry in DC. Poets from all over the country will be converging, demanding an end to this immoral war and a dramatic reordering of our priorities here at home – to save our planet, restore our civil liberties, meet our pressing human needs.

Some of the most celebrated and important poets of our time will be reading and participating. DC poets Chris August, Kenneth Carroll, Grace Cavalieri, Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade), Brian Gilmore, Semezdin Mehmedinović, E. Ethelbert Miller, Princess of Controversy, Susan Tichy, and Belle Waring will be joined on stage by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Carolyn Forché, Sam Hamill, Joy Harjo, Galway Kinnell, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds, Alix Olson, Alicia Ostriker, Ishle Yi Park, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Smith, and Pamela Uschuk.


Our vision for the festival includes a youth poetry contest, poetry in the streets, poetry walking tours, poetry films, poetry activism, poetry parties. Registration will cost only $75, with many scholarships available. We are calling poets to a greater role in public life, to build the republic of poetry.

All of this, however, costs money. We need to cover the airfare for our featured poets, to house and feed them. We need to cover publicity and printing costs, and more. Much of our support so far has been from individuals like yourself who believe that poetry matters, that the work of poets in a time of war is as important as ever.

Please contribute whatever you can. $500 will cover airfare for one of our far-away poets. $100 will cover a night’s lodging. Give $100 or more and you’ll be thanked in the festival program. And all donors will be thanked on the website. Every dollar is tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor the Institute for Policy Studies. Just click here: and be sure to designate “Split This Rock” as the project you’d like to support.

Or send a check payable to “IPS/Split This Rock” to:

1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Thank you! Onward to the republic of poetry!

With deep gratitude,

Sarah Browning and the Coordinating Committee of Split This Rock

ps – Want to get involved in organizing the festival? We’d love to have you on board! Just send us a completed volunteer form, available on the site:

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Melissa Tuckey: Rope as Witness from Pudding House Publications

I return to Melissa Tuckey's poems over and over - especially when I want quiet and the reminder of what the unspoken can say. As Fred Joiner memorably noted in his introduction, when Melissa read in the Intersections poetry series, the poems creep up on you. They are quiet, but if you slow down and take your time with them, they hit you with a whallop. Take the following, from Melissa's chapbook, Rope as Witness, out this year from Pudding House:

Full Snow Moon

The bombers fly so close you feel their engines
in your chest though none can say
where they're headed or why

On the lake near my house boys dare each other
onto the frozen surface

The smallest brings the enormous weight of his fear
He drags it like a shadow

The conflation of the boys' macho posturing and war -- the enormous weight of his fear -- how boys and men find themselves in these precarious positions; and then the shadow. The poems do so much with such economy.

The title poem, "Rope as Witness to the Crime of the Tree," begins,

Self as the tongue of the bell

(in churches
and at bedsides

ringing) bell as the body

and as the rope

With the news reminding us of the symbolic power of ropes in trees, the implication of the self in this history is even more powerful.

I highly recommend this collection of short poems -- stunning and spiky, meditative and sharply focused, all at once.

Read other poems from the book here:

To order Rope as Witness, send $12.50 (s&h included) with a note indicating the title and author, with check, cash, or VISA/MC w/exp date to Pudding House, 81 Shadymere Lane, Columbus Ohio 43213 USA. Make checks payable to “Pudding House” or--Phone order by VISA/MC only: (614) 986-1881email order by VISA/MC only: Or contact the author at:

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Are there political love poems? On Defining Political Poems, by Guest Blogger Kim Roberts

In a rare guest appearance on this blog (OK, first such), Kim Roberts, the one, the only editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Advisory Board member of Split This Rock Poetry Festival, addresses the age-old question, What makes a poem political? Stumped? Read on.


What's your definition of a political poem? This came up recently; Regie Cabico and I are working on a special issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, which will be published January 1, 2008. The issue will be released in honor of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival (which takes place March 20-23), and will include work by some of the organizers and some of the featured readers.

The Split This Rock Festival description says it will highlight poems of "provocation and witness." But what does that mean? I'd like to think the "political" can be interpreted widely. Regie suggested that our invitation for submissions include a definition so we ensured we'd get a range of responses.

When we see a poem about government, politics, war, or leadership, we can all point to it and agree it's political.

The feminist movement taught us that "the personal is political" (a phrase first coined by Carol Hanisch in an essay of that same name, published in 1970, that was widely adopted). So certainly (good feminist that I am), I want to count poems about gender and sexuality, and poems about body image. I think other poems about identity should be included as well: poems addressing disability, immigration, and cultural heritage. Poems about religious and ethnic identity would also count.

I also believe that poetry describing how we interact with our communities is inherently political. That means poems on subjects of civic engagement, activism, education, and group identity get thrown into the mix. For the same reason, poems that describe our interactions with the wider world should be included as well: themes of history, Americana, and cultural icons are political because they help us interpret our background and influences.

But soon it starts to feel like we could make a case for any kind of poem. Are there political love poems? Certainly. What doesn't count? Is everything political, simply by being interpreted though a human prism? Are there political nature poems? (Well--of course--poems about ecology count.)

The political, it seems, intersects through most human endeavors. Not to get all fuzzy and vague about this--I like precision. In the end, though, I think political poetry is defined by a heightened self-awareness on the part of the writer.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


A War on Words

Scratching poems on cell floors, or making ink from the brick powder of the walls, Burmese writers have managed to continue writing despite imprisonment and censorship.

Terrific piece on poets and writers in Burma, in the Guardian:,,2189772,00.html


Tortured Logic: Jon Stewart on language

"Our brave, fighting words, who've been serving this country since the war on terror began, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice, losing their definitions... Words like torture, victory, surge, mission, accomplished..."

To watch the video, go to: Click on More Videos (under Last Night's Show), and type Tortured Logic into the Search Videos box. We laugh, we cry, we plotz.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Three poems in urbancode #3

The third issue of a fascinating new journal on the arts scene in DC, urbancode, includes three of my poems. You can download the PDF if issue #3 here:

One of the poems, "Harry," is in the voice of my great uncle, who spent several years at the VA state mental hospital in Staunton, VA. Just back last night from Staunton for my cousin's wedding. I'd forgotten it was the location of the old hospital; my cousin just happened to land there. But my sister Rachel reminded me that she'd told me the story of seeing Harry's name in a state register. So the poem's dedicated to Rachel and my cousin William, who showed her the book, as well as to the memory of my great uncle Harry.

For a free subscription to urbancode, email

Monday, October 08, 2007


IMAGINE PEACE: A message from Yoko Ono

Dear Friends,
Make sure you visit on October 9th, John Lennon's birthday,for the unveiling of the incredible IMAGINE PEACE TOWER on the isle of Videy, Reykjavik, Iceland.
Please visit the site, have a look around, IMAGINE PEACE and send your wishes to join over 495,000 others buried in capsules around the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER, dedicated to my late husband: musician, poet, artist and peace activist, John Lennon.
Please join us on October 9th at you are, we will all be together that day.

With the deepest love,
yoko ono
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Visit to send your wishes to the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER and join the biggest online peace demonstration on October 9th.The website contains over 160 pages, loads of easter eggs, and is being augmented every day. Explore, have fun, participate, IMAGINE PEACE and join Yoko Ono and thousands of others at on October 9th for the unveilingof the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER, when we will be uploading photos and videos of the days events as they happen.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A dream you dream alone is only a dream
A dream you dream together is reality
Yoko Ono
Imagine all the people living life in peace
John Lennon
Yoko Ono MySpace
Yoko Ono MySpace IMAGINE PEACE Group
Yoko Ono Facebook
Yoko Ono Facebook IMAGINE PEACE Group
Yoko Ono Facebook IMAGINE PEACE TOWER Event
Yoko Ono YouTube----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The IMAGINE PEACE TOWER is an artwork conceived by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon.It is dedicated to peace and bears the inscription IMAGINE PEACE in 24 languages.Its construction and installation is a collaboration between Yoko Ono, the City of Reykjavik, Reykjavik Art Museum and Reykjavik Energy.The work is in the form of a wishing well from which a very strong and tall tower of light emerges. The strength, intensity and brilliance of the light tower continuallychanges as the particles in the air fluctuate with the prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions unique to Iceland.Every year it will light up between October 9th (Lennon's birthday) and December 8th(the day of his death).In addition the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER will be lit on New Year's Eve, during the firstweek of spring and on some rare special occasions agreed between the City and Yoko Ono.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Join the biggest online peace demonstration -


'Poetry can speak decisively to power'

"It is the duty [of poets] to say what we think-and-feel to be true as individuals, and to express that truth in ways which are memorable and telling. That's why tyrants fear poets: they convert particular truths into general truths, and broadcast them. They encapsulate these truths in forms which survive the immediate circumstances of their creation. They write things which lead a life of allegory at the same time as having precise applications. Poets may be unacknowledged legislators - but their achievements long outlast the statues and statutes of powers they criticise."

Read the speech by Andrew Motion, Britain's poet laureate, here.


Newly Arrived in DC: Poet David Keplinger

Beginning teaching this fall at American University is poet David Keplinger. He is the author of The Rose Inside, which won the 1999 T.S. Eliot prize, The Clearing (New Issues), and The Prayers of Others (New Issues). His essays, translations, and poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, AGNI, Virginia Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, The American Voice, and many other journals. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Katey Lehman Foundation.

Welcome, David! A poem:

Waking on the Pribor Train, Near Freud’s Birthplace

I hear before I see.
Halfway through the rain-wet
Fields of Pribor in winter,
Some distant, barking dogs
Suggest the town.
I have heard tell
Of its shops with names
Predating the war
When this was a Jewish city.
I have found it all this way
Like a cup or a pocketknife
Or a hat from childhood
I thought was lost.
Illumined by the station lights
The tiny veins
Flicker behind my eyes,
And I open my eyes:
It’s like floating back into the world
After prayer. The moon
Is out. The dogs are slick
And fluid in their tight, black fur.

From The Clearing by David Keplinger


The Personal and the Political: Poetry Workshop October 17

Shirlington Poetry Workshops
Guest Artist: Sarah Browning
Wednesday, October 17, 6:30 pm
Shirlington Library
4200 Campbell Ave, Shirlington, VA

Join the Shirlington Library staff and Guest Artist Sarah Browning for the inaugural meeting of the monthly poetry workshop. The Poetry workshops will meet the third Wednesday of each month. And will focus on a theme, which the participants may follow if they like. Guest Artists will join the workshops quarterly.

This month's workshop:

History is what you learn around the dinner table: Writing poetry at the intersection of the personal and the political

All of our lives are shaped by social and historical forces, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our own family stories – our personal social history – can be a great source for poetry of the political imagination. We’ll look at a few poems by contemporary poets that explore this intersection of the personal and the political and then write our own. No experience necessary! Just come ready to write.

For more information, please contact Geoff Koury at 703-228-6545 or

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Dargan and Weiner at Sunday Kind of Love October 21

Joshua Weiner
Kyle Dargan

Scroll down for poems!

Sunday Kind of Love: A Busboys & Poetry Event

Reading by Kyle Dargan and Joshua Weiner
Sunday, October 21, 2007, 4-6 pm

Open mic following the feature.
Hosted by Sarah Browning, DC Poets Against the War, and Regie Cabico, Sol & Soul

Busboys & Poets14th & V Streets, NWWashington, DCU Street/Cardozo on the Metro green lineWheelchair accessibleFree and open to the publicFor more info: 202-387-POET, womenarts2 (at) aol (dot) com

Kyle G. Dargan’s second collection of poems, Bouquet of Hungers, has just been released by the University of Georgia Press. He is the managing editor of Callaloo and a member of the creative writing MFA faculty at American University. His debut collection of poems, The Listening, won the 2003 Cave Canem Prize, and he has received fellowships from the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and The Fine Arts Work Center.

Joshua Weiner is the author of two books of poetry, From the Book of Giants and The World’s Room, both from the University of Chicago Press. He is a winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland.


The glass bottom poem
floats on poured stone
surfaces. The windows
set in its belly
show you nothing—
no arks, ancient relics,
or species paved over. No
more reason to bury here.
People are smallest
shadows of the city. The city
realizes the city and must
forget itself to the ground
to dream its hereafter,
sparkling. See the Pipes
of Yesterday—that is all
the poem can offer.
If you must see ruin, glance
around then step out quickly.
Remember, resole your feet
with the largest notes you carry
lest you disturb the city’s
voracious slumber.

by Kyle Dargan


Found Letter

What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;
Open affection with your wife and kids;
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;
Few days in court, with little consequence;
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that's rich
Enough to build the future with; a bed
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;
A warm, dry field for laying down in sleep,
And sleep to trim the long night coming;
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be
None other; freedom to forget the time;
To know the soul exceeds where it's confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child's kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.

- Joshua Weiner

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Beltway Poetry Maps the Evolving City

Kim Roberts and Teri Cross Davis (along with the many featured poets) have produced a tour-de-force: The new issue of Beltway charts the city's changes, elegizes what is lost, mourns, celebrates, records.

Proud organizer moment: Split This Rock is amply represented. Not only are the co-editors of the issue both on the festival advisory board, but many of the published poets are involved. Tanya Snyder, Rosemary Winslow, and Heather Davis are on the Coordinating Committee; Brian Gilmore, Grace Cavalieri, Kenneth Carroll, and Ethelbert Miller will be featured in the festival. Dan Vera, Joe Ross, and others are volunteering. Rock on, Splitters! (OK, that one's not so good. Split on, Rockers? Rock on, Split-This-Rockers?)

Getting serious, here's Kim's announcement. Check it out. It's a great way to start (and continue, and finish) the day:

The Fall issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly is now online--and what a terrific issue it is! "The Evolving City" is an anthology of 36 poems that address the multiplicity of ways that cities change over time.

Co-edited by Teri Ellen Cross and Kim Roberts, the featured authors are:

Abdul Ali * Joseph Awad * Kimberly L. Becker * Japheth Brubaker * Rick Cannon * Kenneth Carroll * Grace Cavalieri * William Claire * Ramola D * Heather Davis * Mark DeFoe * Greta Ehrig * Mark Ftizgerald * Martin Galvin * Brian Gilmore * Fannie H. Gray * Daniel Gutstein * Jessica Haney * Joyce Latham * Grisella Martinez * E. Ethelbert Miller * Kathleen O'Toole * Jose Padua * Linda Pastan * John Peacock * Elizabeth Poliner * Katy Richey * Joseph Ross * Carly Sachs * David Salner * Kate Powell Shine * Tanya Snyder * Dan Vera * Joshua Weiner * Rosemary Winslow * Katherine E. Young

We hope you enjoy it!

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