It’s been awhile since the last Eclectique Interview. This will be the second interview with a poet. That’s Sarah Browning, director of D.C. Poets Against the War and Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Sarah is also author of Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007), and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology (Argonne House Press, 2004). She’s an active community organizer and poet (often at the same time). The Split This Rock Poetry Festival is coming up March 22-25, 2012. For 4 days the festival engages poetry as activism in community building, justice and social change. Yes, Virginia, and Maryland and all the states that surround the monumental colony we call, Washington, D.C. – the city is a poetry capital.
SPLIT THIS ROCK POETRY FESTIVAL: POEMS OF PROVOCATION & WITNESS
WHAT: Four days of readings, workshops, panels, open mics, youth programs, and activism, bringing poetry into public life and exploring the role of poetry in social change.
WHEN: March 22-25, 2012
WHERE: Washington, DC – Multiple venues in the U Street Corridor and Columbia Heights. Visit the website at www.SplitThisRock.org for details.
CONTACT/INFO: info[at]splitthisrock[dot]org, Tel. 202-787-5210, blogthisrock.blogspot.com, @tweet_this_rock
E916: What inspired Split This Rock Poetry Festival?
SB: Split This Rock emerged from DC Poets Against the War, part of a national movement founded in response to President Bush’s drive to war with Iraq in 2003. Our local group united poets working in a variety of styles – across differences of race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation – to speak out for alternatives to war and for a radical reorganization of our nation’s priorities.
As I discovered when I moved here, DC poets had always written with this clear-eyed. But they did not always have a platform from which to speak these truths. There were few institutions supporting and promoting this kind of poetry, poetry that bears witness to the injustices of the world and, through compelling and powerful language, provokes change.
We designed the first Split This Rock Poetry Festival to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq in March, 2008, and put out the call nationwide for poets and activists and dreamers to join us.
The response was so phenomenal. Hundreds of people from our city, our region, and throughout the country found the festival so necessary, that we went to work building a permanent home for socially engaged poets. In addition to presenting a biennial national festival (which is equal parts festival, conference, and political action), Split This Rock now also presents readings, workshops, and discussion series year-round, publishes poetry of provocation and witness in electronic forums, sponsors an extensive program for youth, including the DC Youth Slam Team, and spearheads campaigns to integrate poetry into public life.
E916: How did poetry become so popular in Washington, DC? What makes DC a poetry or a poetic city?
It’s no coincidence that most of these poets are African American, of course. Our city’s Black writers and artists have always nurtured and supported one another, developing a strong cultural voice that has been critical to the survival of the District’s Black community.
Today is no different. Older poets mentor younger ones, communities of poetry form and dissolve and re-form. DC becomes a living center for oral poetry – the oldest of poetic forms – newly named “Spoken Word.”
The District of course is also home to the federal government, an institution endlessly dissected and analyzed by the press and the popular imagination. Those of us who live here, in contrast, are often forgotten. We claim our place in the world, therefore, with poetry. Here is our story, our poems declare. Pay attention.
E916: When did you become a poet?
SB: I come from a family of poets and English professors, so it took awhile for me to accept that I had no alternative but to be a poet. I was busy differentiating myself by becoming a community organizer. But I discovered that I couldn’t do one without the other. I needed a creative life, a language with which to explore the complexities of the world, my relationship to the society in which I found myself, all the ways that history shapes us and frees us. I was almost 30 before I began calling myself a poet and found a way to put poetry at the center of my life.
With first DC Poets Against the War and now Split This Rock, I have found a way to unite these two commitments, to be a poet and an activist, to be undivided.
E916: Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival? Give us a few highlights. Who’s coming to the event?SB: Split This Rock 2012 features a spectacular line-up of poets! DC favorites Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, Kim Roberts, Venus Thrash, and Naomi Shihab Nye will be joined by poets new to most of us: Homero Aridjis, a leader of Mexico’s environmental movement; Sherwin Bitsui, a Navajo poet devoted to keeping Navajo language alive among the next generation; spoken word superstars Carlos Andrés Gómez and Rachel McKibbens; Khaled Mattawa, a Libyan who lived in exile in the United States for decades and now divides his time between his home country and the country that gave him asylum for so many years; Douglas Kearney, who’s both a hip hop head and an opera librettist; and more.
We’re also paying tribute to the life and work of poet-activist-essayist-teacher June Jordan during the festival, as 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of her death. Several sessions will reflect on Jordan’s legacy, focusing on her writings on environmental justice, sexual violence, and creative resistance.
E916: How do we appreciate poem? Does a poem make its best impression when read on the page or read aloud?
SB: When we attend a live reading, we hope that several of our senses will be excited: the language will delight our ear (even if the topic is a difficult one); the music of the poem will tickle our rhythmic sense; and the eye will receive gifts from the poet himself. We also have the pleasure of a live, communal experience, the kind whose magic we know from musical and theatrical performances. We are both alone and in a crowd as we listen and watch.
When reading poetry on the page, on the other hand, we have the pleasure of solitary communion with the poem. We can take all the time we want with it, reread it, read it aloud, yell at it. The eye is the most essential organ to this experience: The poem’s form should inform its meaning. Every mark on the page asks a question, suggests a possible reading. Which is why poets are so meticulous, can struggle for years with a single poem. The possibilities are endless; English in particular has a huge vocabulary compared to many other languages. And so the poet seeks and keeps seeking the language, the form, to carry her vision into the world.
This year’s festival’s tag line is “Poetry by and for the 99%.” When and where does poetry occupy public space?
Poetry is everywhere! Poets have been occupying and occupiers have been writing poetry. A new anthology, Liberty’s Vigil: 99 Poets Among the 99%, has just been published by Michael Czarnecki’s FootHills Publishing. Split This Rock poets have led open mics and given workshops and slept out and marched alongside and been beaten alongside as well. We carry lines of poetry through the streets during demonstrations, we hand out poems, we recite poems into mics.
Yesterday, the cashier at the grocery store was moved to tears when I told him of reading poems in front of his country’s embassy, drawing attention to its repression of poets and activists. I cannot help him go home. I cannot help his family join him here. But on a busy day at Trader Joe’s, we will shake hands, and our tears will tell of the power of words, the essential place of poetry in making a better world.
Eclectic types tend to keep their fingers in a lot of pies…and cakes. This blog, of course, being no exception. That’s why Eclectique916.com is helping the “Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Chocolate Layer Cake Baking Challenge“ get the word out that the contest is looking for contestants with a passion for baking, age 18 years and up, and residing in the Washington, DC Metropolitan region to compete in the 2012 contest and support the work of Martha’s Table, the 2012 beneficiary. The contest is presented with Eatonville Restaurant, the Zora Neale Hurston-themed sophisticated Southern food sister to the Langston Hughes Busboys and Poets hangout in Washington, DC.
Entry forms are due February 1, 2012.
(Mailed entries must be postmarked February 1, 2012 and received by February 4, 2012 – P.O. Box 21204, Washington, DC 20009) That’s pretty soon, but the process is simple.
Got a chocolate layer cake recipe (like German Chocolate, Devil’s Food…anything with chocolate cocoa in the batter)? Just jot it down on the entry form after filling out all the contact information, tell the story of the cake (what inspired the recipe, who laps it up, who shouts about it etc.), check the signature box, and click the SUBMIT button. That’s it. No entry fee. No purchase required. No baking…at least not yet.
Up to 15 entries will be selected for the semifinals and judging event with special guest judges (cookbook authors, food professionals) March 24, 2012 at Martha’s Table. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Martha’s Table (www.marthastable.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk children, youth, families and individuals in the DC community improve their lives by providing educational programs, food, clothing and enrichment opportunities.
Five finalists go to the Final Five in April for a chance to win the first prize.
First prize: $500 + your winning cake on the Eatonville Restaurant dessert menu (the 2011 winner is still a best seller), and a $250 gift card from King Arthur Flour, one of several sponsors of the contest. The winner also gets the fame that comes from being #1! Read about Decoyise “Dee” Brown, the winner of the 2011 challenge in the Washington Post. Dee will be on the noon newscast of local CBS affiliate WUSA9 Friday, January 27 interviewed by J.C. Hayward.
For more information visit www.shoutbakingchallenge.com, email contest[at]shoutbakingchallenge[dot]com or call 202-939-0794.
Douglass Dilman is “The Man” and the first Black President in the 1972 drama based on the novel by Irving Wallace and staring James Earl Jones. The film is back in limited distribution through independent collaborative efforts and coming to National Geographic (Grosvenor Auditorium – 1600 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036) Tuesday, February 7 to kick off Nat Geo’s “Tuesdays at Noon” Black History Month events.
In “The Man,” Senator Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) through the law of succession suddenly becomes the first black man to occupy the Oval Office. “The Man” remains unique in that the film presents the black president as the central dramatic character confronting the political and social weights of his position. Sound familiar? In addition to Jones, the film features actors from television and film’s “Golden Age”: Burgess Meredith, Jack Benny (in a cameo), Janet MacLachlan as Dilman’s activist daughter, George Stanford Brown, Martin Balsam, Barbara Rush, and William Windom. The screenplay for “The Man” was written by Rod Serling (“The Twilight Zone,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight”) and directed by Joseph Sargent (“Something the Lord Made,” “A Lesson Before Dying”).
Eclectique916 continues to campaign for “The Man,” a film that is less than 50 years old and yet practically obscure. According to the documentary film “These Amazing Shadows” about the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, 50% of films produced are lost. This spans from the silent film era at the top of the 20th century to the present. Feature films produced in the last 50 years are also vanishing. “The Man” is considered one of them. To date, only three 16 mm copies of “The Man” have been identified/found. It is highly likely the original film is 35 mm. To date, the location of that 35 mm reel is a mystery.
The book was taken out of print then re-released in 1999, the year after President Bill Clinton’s “impeachment” by the House of Representatives prompted by the “Monica Lewinsky scandal.” The Senate acquitted President Clinton. In the book, but not so much in the film, Dilman also faces impeachment.
James Earl Jones wrote the introduction to the 1999 version of “The Man.”
His [Dilman] intention is to be president of all the people. He has no axes to grind, even racial axes. He simply cares for the national good.
James Earl Jones
The book went back out of print but recently re-emerged as a Kindle edition. The film is not available on DVD, Blueray or streamed. Thanks to the efforts of persons like Clayton LeBouef (“Something the Lord Made,” “Homicide: Life On the Street,” “The Wire”), who will talk about preservation of films like “The Man” February 7, the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation and this blog, “The Man” is back. It’s the beginning of a project to bring attention to significant films (many recent) that deserve extended distribution. If not for an informed and conscious audience, these films will be lost forever.
VOTE!Douglass Dillman’s campaign begins with a vote — on Turner Classic Movies. The overview page for “The Man” includes a link to vote for the film to be released on DVD. And you don’t have to register to vote on TCM.
Vote for “The Man.” See “The Man” for yourself February 7 at National Geographic “Tuesdays at Noon.” Additional screenings (including outside DC) are TBA.
While everyone’s hunched over the carving stations in South Carolina and now Florida, the sitting President of the United States makes an historic state of the union address which, again, E-Bert and I have thrown the ball around. This toss, “Why isn’t the press hyping this?” Has 2012 already been declared a “lame duck” year? Is this the make-or-break speech? If no one else, the President and his White House appear to be pretty focused on matters of state.
Tomorrow, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address at 9:00 p.m. ET. During that speech, he’ll lay out his vision for an America where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, where everyone does their fair share, and where everyone is held accountable for what they do.
There is a range of ways to get involved with this year’s State of the Union address.
Immediately following the President’s speech on Tuesday, be sure to stay tuned to WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU for a live panel featuring senior White House advisors answering your questions about the speech. Then, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, a group of policy experts and advisors to the President will sit down for Office Hours on Twitter — discussing the issues that matter to you and your community.
Finally, on Monday, January 30, President Obama will join the conversation in a special Google+ Hangout, a live multi-person video chat, from the White House.
Participating in the Hangout is easy — just visit the White House YouTube channel to submit your questions and vote for your favorites between now and January 28. A few participants will be chosen to join the President in the Google+ Hangout to ask their questions of the President live!
Check out WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU to learn more about watching the enhanced State of the Union online and all the ways you can ask questions this week:
Here’s the full lineup — all times are ET.
9:00 p.m.: Watch the enhanced version of the speech that features graphics, data and stats that highlight the issues the President is discussing on WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU. Use the Twitter hashtag #SOTU to discuss the speech live.
10:00 p.m.: Immediately following the speech, pose your questions to a live panel at the White House. Senior advisors will answer your questions about the President’s address submitted via Twitter (use #WHChat and #SOTU), Facebook, Google+, and an in-person audience of Tweetup participants.
Wednesday Office Hours Schedule
All Day: Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary, answers your questions on Twitter (@jearnest44)
1:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Mark Zuckerman, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
3:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44), White House Communications Director
Thursday Office Hours Schedule
10:00 a.m. Veterans: Matt Flavin, White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy
11:00 a.m. LGBT: Miriam Vogel, White House Senior Policy Advisor and Gautam Raghavan, White House Associate Director for Public Engagement
12:00 p.m. Women: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity and Avra Siegel, White House Deputy Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls
1:00 p.m. Seniors: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
2:00 p.m. Latinos: Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Advisor, Julie Rodriguez, White House Associate Director of Public Engagement and Luis Miranda, White House Director of Hispanic Media
4:00 p.m. Small Business Owners: Christine Koronides, Senior Advisor for Economic Policy, National Economic Council
5:00 p.m. African Americans: Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
6:00 p.m. Asian American Pacific Islanders: Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary
TBD Youth: Administration official to be announced
Friday Office Hours Schedule
11:00 a.m. Foreign Policy: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting
12:00 p.m. Education: Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
1:00 p.m. Health: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
2:00 p.m. Energy: Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy Policy
3:00 p.m. Consumer Protections: Brian Deese, Deputy Director National Economic Council
4:00 pm The Economy: Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director National Economic Council
5:00 p.m. Job Opportunities: Portia Wu, Senior Policy Advisor for Mobility and Opportunity Policy
6:00 p.m. Urban Issues: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity
Monday January 30
President Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout from the White House
It appears the media is already bored with fmr Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. They want to wrap this up after SC and move on. The media was bored with Obama the day after he was elected. Anyone remember how pundits were already picking horses for the 2012 race no less than 24 hours after the new first family walked out on the stage in Chicago. 2008 seems so last week. And why so much focus on the #2 guy? When has 2 become as important as being #1. I hated being #2 even when my pre-K class lined up according to height.
E-bert and I are tossing this ball back and forth. The ball is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, son and brother of presidents.
What Laura Bush said
Several news outlets are circulating a story from former First Lady Laura Bush’s remarks at an event in Sarasota saying she and her husband, President George W. Bush, hoped Jeb would run in 2012. This started with the Florida-Herald Tribune (at least from my end); it’s now on CBS News, the Guardian, the Daily News, Houston Chronicle and Huffington Post sites. This is also running alongside another story that Jeb Bush will endorse Mitt Romney at the end of the month. Two Jeb Bush trains running. But one must keep in mind, there are certain members of the Bush family and their political friends who don’t just blurt things out.
E-bert’s got the ball. He says, check out the photograph BuzzFeed attached to the story about the endorsement. You have Jeb about to shake hands with President Obama. The sign behind him is for the White House summit “Winning the Future.” This is a story about Jeb Bush endorsing Mitt Romney. But where’s Mitt in this picture? Shouldn’t this story about an endorsement include a photo of the person being endorsed? Hmmm.
We’re now chuckling at the caption on the CBS News site:
Bush, who speaks Spanish and is married to a woman born in Mexico, has been active in trying to bring Hispanic voters – a crucial and growing vowing bloc that usually supports Democrats – to the Republican Party. Earlier this year, he said Republicans should not just run for president by attacking President Obama.
Is this a fishing expedition? In 2000, a (fluent) Spanish-speaking candidate married to a woman “born in Mexico” or Mexican American wouldn’t have a prayer. But we have President Obama, or as the media likes to spin it – the age of “post-racial America.” You have to say “hmmm.”
Republican establishment strategies bring it down to one simple goal (cue Charlie Sheen) – winning. A Jeb Bush endorsement is key for Florida (remember 2000?). Hardcore Democrats or Democrat leaning voters have hardcore memories for better and worse. Independents live in the moment (financially speaking). In “The Sting” the backroom gang used “The Wire,” a set up con so old no one would remember it. It’s been 4 years since 8 years of Bush. People will remember “The Wire” as a HBO series.
The RNC convention is taking place in Tampa, Florida. South Carolina primaries are up next. Media’s talking about Steven Colbert’s run in the primaries. Power struggles continue within the party. Long odds for a photo finish. And still too soon to tell.