Saturday, January 12, 2008
Announcing the Split This Rock issue of Beloit Poetry Journal
As a contribution to the Split This Rock Poetry Festival and to poetry as the voice of witness, resistance, and transformation, the Beloit Poetry Journal has dedicated its Spring 2008 issue to a special chapbook of work by poets around the nation who will be participating in the festival. We had wanted for the last several years to publish a chapbook of poetry that would lend its insights to the political realities that hover over every aspect of our lives; meeting Sarah Browning, Melissa Tuckey, and Regie Cabico at last year’s Associated Writing Programs Conference presented a golden opportunity to do that. We salute Sarah, Melissa, Regie, and the other conference organizers for the extraordinary effort they are putting into making Split This Rock a great confluence of poets of many different voices but a common commitment to transforming the body politic.
The 56-page Split This Rock Chapbook consists of poems by eighteen of the festival’s featured readers: Jimmy Santiago Baca, Robert Bly, Mark Doty, Martín Espada, Carolyn Forché, Sam Hamill, Joy Harjo, Galway Kinnell, Stephen Kuusisto, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alix Olson, Alicia Ostriker, Ishle Yi Park, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Smith, Susan Tichy, and Pamela Uschuk.
Their poems, some of which are previously published pieces that have become touchstones of contemporary political poetry, the rest of which we are the first to publish, are in complex conversation with each other. They walk the streets of Brooklyn, ride the bus with Rosa Parks in Jerusalem, and fly over the flood-torn Big Easy in a helicopter with an addled president. They bear witness to the murder of Pablo Neruda, lament the deaths of the residents of Hiroshima, and celebrate the workers at the Window on the World Restaurant who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. They refract the news through a clarifying lens, and savage murderous idiocy. They are satire, jeremiad, prophecy, and charm, exhorting us in the name of Neruda, Akhmatova, Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass to “Cry out! . . . . See who will answer!”
The chapbook will both advertize the festival and serve after the festival as an inspiration to keep speaking in what Sonia Sanchez calls “the tongues of peace.” If you can’t find it at your local bookstore, you can order it on line now from the BPJ website, http://www.bpj.org/. We’ll be selling it at this year’s AWP Conference (Jan 31-Feb 3 in NYC). It will also, of course, be available at Split This Rock in March.