Video

#StayWoke, layers of

PoMoRed, 1/12/2016, Mt. Vernon, VA —

Staff meeting this afternoon, but just this morning Dr. Cornel West was on Democracy Now reminding us to dig in and push, we became certain that #notmypresident’s cabinet is made of #robberbarons, Texas is set to force women /clinics who have abortions to pay for the burial/cremation of the remains, and #StandingRock is gearing up for a confrontation with #historicalconsequences, read a great interview with Ralph Nader in Sun Magazine

“#StayWoke” usually shows up tagged to some awful event.

A murder by police. A missing or murdered transgender woman. An incorrectly drawn swastika on a school. News of some climate destabilization symptom meant to yank on our hearts. #Amnesia is a defense employed, by those not too-directly affected by these problems, to cope with the sheer psychic battering that Knowing does to us in a world built of Systems of Damage. #StayWoke is usually a reminder to keep looking, stay sharp. Like being awake all the time, it can lead to exhaustion and total breakdown.

BUT. #StayWoke also means staying Awake To Your Power. 


I see so many new energized people! Folks calling Congress to draw a line on #SteveBannon. The joy in that! If you’re a social justice advocate of any stripe, you’ve been hungering for a long time to see Americans Get Engaged! And it is really that simple: Call your representatives and let them know what you think. Keep those phone numbers in your contact list. Get their emails. Bug them. Bother them. Talk to them. It is, no joke, that simple.

#trump wants to fill his cabinet with #robberbarons (literally), call to draw a line on all of them. Congress must approve the appointments. Lay some conscience on these people.

1 minute out of your lunch break. That easy. You can call while you’re in line at your favorite casual dining establishment or small business eatery.

You can bet your soul that the political right has been at this a long time. That’s how we’re in this clusterfu(K. Because this shit works. Some of the levers of state operation can be swung in our favor.

Ralph Nader reminds us how to #StayWoke: 

… it’s not that hard to turn the country around. Most people, whatever they call themselves — conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive — have a deep sense of fair play and justice. They’re not sadists. They care for other people. We see this in a national disaster. All labels go out the window, and everybody helps …. That’s what we need to tap into. That’s why I say fewer than 1% of the people, if they represent a majority opinion [on background checks for gun purchase and restricting assault weapons, for example] can make a lot of changes.

If that 1% makes the phone calls. One or two calls a day, at lunch maybe, or while you’re on the train or bus, or stopped on the highway in your commute.

Wanna get more radical in a totally gentle and effective way?

Throw the labels out the window forever and all of time. Just ask yourself: would I suffer if X or Y or Z were happening to me? If the answer is Yes, ask yourself one more question: Where is my phone?? The 21st Century version of: If not now, when?

Now, look at #StandingRock and ask yourself: if an occupying government broke every promise it ever made me and mine, if a company were about to dig up the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried, my child is buried, my spouse, if that company were about to destroy my private land,  if the police whose salaries my taxes pay and who are supposed to protect me were spraying me with water in sub-freezing temperatures in order to shut me up and get me out of this company’s way, would I suffer?

Yes, you would. So pick up the phone. Simple.

If you throw out political, even social, kinds of labels, if you act on your heart and your connection to the joy and good living and to the suffering of other people, you become a completely uncontrollable, politically unpredictable, socially responsible excellent human being. You come from a place of love and care, and that is nearly impossible to manipulate.

Contacts

Your state government lists the phone numbers and contact info for state representatives and senators, and the governor and their cabinet, on a website like www.virginia.gov. States each have a Senate and a General Assembly (like the House of Representatives).

Your city, too. City council, aldermen, Jane Smith who lives over on Maple St., whatever your town’s manner of organization, call them about local issues and needs.

The Feds.

Find your senators here. There’s a search box in the upper right corner.
Find your representatives in the House here. Also, search box in the upper right.

Not sure what each house of Congress is responsible for? No problem. Below are links to the committees. Here you can find out what the committees are working on, and who’s on them. You can contact committees much the way you would your own legislators.

Committees of House of Representatives

Committees of Senate

Keep your representatives’ numbers in your phone,
use them daily, #StayWoke.

 

 

 

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Call for Proposals: 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

CALL FOR SESSION PROPOSALS:
Workshops, Themed Readings, and Panel or Roundtable Discussions

DEADLINE: June 30, 2015

COMPLETE GUIDELINES AT BLOG THIS ROCK.

Submit online:
www.splitthisrock.submittable.com

CONTACT US AT INFO@SPLITTHISROCK.ORG IF THE FORM IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO YOU.

Split This Rock invites proposals for workshops, panel and roundtable discussions, and themed group readings for the fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC.

More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. We’re particularly interested this year in seeing proposals that address these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand the connections and build the alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival prides itself on being a place for community building. Interactive proposals that open unique opportunities for participants to connect with one another are of particular interest. When proposing panel discussions and readings, we request that time be set aside for dialogue or a period of questions and answers.

Split This Rock is not an academic conference, but a gathering of individuals from many backgrounds. Please, no academic papers and avoid jargon of all kinds. Thank you!

Call for Proposals: 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock Poetry Festival:
Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016
 
CALL FOR SESSION PROPOSALS:
Workshops, Themed Readings, and Panel or Roundtable Discussions
 
DEADLINE: June 30, 2015
Submit online:
CONTACT US AT INFO@SPLITTHISROCK.ORG IF THE FORM IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO YOU.

Split This Rock invites proposals for workshops, panel and roundtable discussions, and themed group readings for the fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC. 
More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. We’re particularly interested this year in seeing proposals that address these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand the connections and build the alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival prides itself on being a place for community building. Interactive proposals that open unique opportunities for participants to connect with one another are of particular interest. When proposing panel discussions and readings, we request that time be set aside for dialogue or a period of questions and answers.

For complete details, visit the blog here.

Freedom Plow Award, Thursday Night, DC, BE THERE!!!!

Interview with Mark Nowak, 2015 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism Recipient

Visit Split This Rock and discover a world of activist and socially conscious poets bent on uplifting this world. This interview was conducted by interns Maggie Yiin and Hannah Cornfield, who are amazing. I can say that because I work with them. Lucky me!

The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, sponsored by the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. The award, judged this year by Sheila Black, Martha Collins, and E. Ethelbert Miller, is being given for the second time in 2015. Tickets now on sale! Join us on April 2, at the Arts Club of Washington, as we honor Mark Nowak for his work in establishing “poetry dialogues” among workers around the globe.

ABOUT MARK NOWAK

Poet, cultural critic, playwright, essayist, and director of the graduate creative writing program at Manhattanville College, Mark Nowak is the winner of this year’s Freedom Plow Award. A true poet activist, Mark has a longtime commitment to labor issues. Encouraging deep workers’ solidarity, he exposes every mining disaster in the world through his blog and facilitates “poetry dialogues” among workers across the globe. Mark is the author of three books of poetry, all of which can also be viewed as studies of labor economy under global capitalism: Revenants (2000), Shut Up Shut Down (2004), and Coal Mountain Elementary (2008). He is the editor of Then and Now: Theodore Enslin’s Selected Poems, 1943-1993 (National Poetry Foundation, 1999) and, with Diane Glancy, Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings after the Detours (Coffee House Press, 1999). Since 1997 he has been the editor of Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics.  Nowak was awarded the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship.

SPLIT THIS ROCK INTERVIEWS MARK NOWAK

What inspired your commitment to labor issues? And when did you first start thinking about language as a means for social change?

My family was certainly my first and deepest inspiration. My grandma, Stella, dropped out of elementary school to become a domestic worker. She was later a Teamster and a Rosie-the-Riveter. Her husband, my grandpa, spent his working life in the roll mill at the behemoth Bethlehem Steel Plant in Lackawanna, NY. My dad was Vice President of his union at the Westinghouse plant in Buffalo for many years. And my mom was a clerical worker for most of her career. Then, amidst a sea of terrible teachers in middle school and high school, one teacher (who I’m still friends with), Michael Pikus, told me I should start reading books by Albert Camus and George Orwell and the existentialists. My life hasn’t been the same since then. I’d also add that being part of the punk and electronic music scene and playing in bands in Buffalo and Toronto in my late teens and early 20s helped to politicize me. I’ve written about those years in an essay that came out in Goth: Undead Subculture.

Can you discuss the role of dialogue in your poetry activism?

To me, the poetry workshop is such an important tool for use in progressive organizations like workers centers or repressive institutions like the prison industrial complex because it can operate in what I like to call both the first person singular and the first person plural – the “I” and the “We”. What emerges from my poetry workshops with workers centers and global trade unions, for example, is both a valuation of individual workers’ stories AND the collective understanding that these stories are simultaneously isolated events happening to individuals and repressions that are happening to workers across the world. Thus, the workshops help to build both the confidence in workers’ individual voices and their belief in shared struggle and collective resistance.

How do news outlets trigger and influence your poetry?

Every day, one of the first news sources I look at is Labourstart. It’s very easy to form an opinion that the working class and the trade unions are a dying breed if all you listen to is the U.S. corporate media. But Labourstart reminds me each and every day of the hundreds and thousands of workers around the world who are rebelling in small and large ways. This kind of daily practice utterly shifts my perspective of living in this world and inspires me to continue to do the work I do.

What audience(s) do you keep in mind when you write and publish your poetry?

Every poet wants to say “the public,” of course. But for me, I really want to create work that is simultaneously and equally of interest to the literary community and to global workers. I want to feel equally confident and proud when reading the exact same piece at a literary center and at a union hall. I can’t just write for one or the other, or different pieces for each group. I have to write for them together. This is the only way I can be satisfied with what I produce.

As a professor at Manhattanville College, how does teaching connect to the process and product of your poetry and community building?

When I arrived at Manhattanville, I immediately developed a required MFA seminar on critical pedagogy and the teaching of creative writing in the community. My students read, watch videos, and examine and critique the history of writers in the schools, prisons, community centers, and workplaces. They watch films like Louder Than a Bomb and read books by everyone from Paulo Freire to Joy James. And I’m happy to see a growing number of my former students now teaching writing workshops at Bedford Women’s Prison, Sing Sing, and elsewhere. Others have gone on to develop poetry workshops for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and women living at domestic violence shelters. This work by our Manhattanville MFA alums really inspires me.

What are you working on now?

We’ve recently won a three-year grant to open a school/institute for worker writers at the PEN American Center in New York City, so I’m developing the first semester’s classes that will start in early April. We’ll meet for five straight weeks and write new poems that we’ll premiere at an event in the PEN World Voices Festival on Saturday, May 9. More info is available at our brand new website,http://www.workerwriters.org. Then we’re going to put together a weekend retreat/festival for worker writers on Governor’s Island this summer.

What is one piece of yours that you are most proud of?

I’m actually most proud of the poems produced by the workers in my workshops. And though I might cite all of them, I guess it’d be good to turn back to the beginning. The first workshop I ever taught exclusively for workers happened at the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies, headed by the great labor historian Bob Bruno. One of the students in that class was Frank Cunningham from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 139). Frank wrote an incredible poem about seeing the electrical work he’d done in the skyscrapers of Chicago, knowing it was his work that made the lights on the Chicago skyline shine as they did in the night sky. The workshop was more than a decade ago and I lost touch with Frank for several years. But when we got back in contact, he told me that he’d recently entered the poem in a contest and won third place. It was the Robert Frost poetry competition and Frank’s poem was published in The Saturday Evening Post. Frank’s story reminds me how much poetry matters to workers who take these workshops and how powerful and important the stories of their working lives can be in bringing social, economic, and political change for workers around the world.

Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week: Lois Beardslee

Manitogiizans/December
When I asked my mother
If she could remember
What her mother’s mother called December
Before the Black-Robed religious reformers
Named it LittleSpritMoon
After their BabyJesus

She put her open hand
To her own lips
Shook her head
Looked away
Said we are better off
If we do not remember those things.

 
* * *
From Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (University of Arizona Press, 2011).
Used with permission.
 
* * * 
Lois Beardslee, of the Ojibwe and Lacandon peoples, is the author of Lies to Live By, Rachel’s Children, Not Far Away, and The Women’s Warrior Society.Beardslee also preserves traditional Ojibwe art forms, including porcupine quillwork, sweetgrass basketry, and birch bark biting. She is an instructor in communications at Northwestern Michigan College.
 
 
* * * 

Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Split This Rock’s Two Weeks of — FY Poetry!!!

We have the goods,
and we’re sharing.

Tonight

FREE: The intense and brilliant Sholeh Wolpé reads at Upshur Street Books at 7pm. Iranian-American poet, translator, and generous soul. The workshop she led at Split This Rock last night was a real eye-opener for the poets present. Details on tonight’s reader here (click).

Next Week

FREE: Tim Seibles is in the District!! He’ll lead a workshop on writing through the lens of race at the Tacoma Park Busboys & Poets, all are welcome. (click) And then give a reading (also $Free.99) at Upshur Street Books. (click) His visit is part of a series of readings and workshops in the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts series At War With Ourselves, which culminates in a huge program in September this year marking the beginning of the Civil War.

Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism: Mark Nowak

April 2, 6-9 pm, at the Arts Club of Washington

Get Your Tickets Early
Poetry, Performance, Video, Music, Nosh
& Delightful Company to Refresh You
for the Great Work

What did Mark Nowak do to earn this tremendous honor? He rocks.

Mark Nowak’s work brings creative writing workshops to worker communities. He helps establish “poetry dialogues” among workers around the world, fostering free and open communication across nations. Most recently, he has led workshops for caregivers, with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. In this way, he unites workers around the world, supporting them as they resist global resistance to worker rights and dignity.

From the press release:

Split This Rock, the DC-based national organization dedicated to poetry of provocation and witness, is pleased to announce that Mark Nowak will receive the 2nd Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism on April 2, 6-9 pm, at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street, NW, Washington, DC. Tickets to the reception and award ceremony are $30 for general admission, $10 for students, and can be purchased via Split this Rock’s website. Light refreshments will be served. Made possible through the generosity of the CrossCurrents Foundation, the award recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. The event is co-sponsored by the Arts Club of Washington and FOLIO Magazine.

The Freedom Plow Award, judged this year by Sheila Black, Martha Collins, and E. Ethelbert Miller, carries a cash prize of $3,500. The judges were impressed with Mark Nowak’s work bringing creative writing workshops to worker communities. For many years, he has facilitated “poetry dialogues” among workers around the world, fostering free and open communication across nations. Most recently, he has led workshops for caregivers, with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Finalists for the 2015 award are Black Poets Speak Out/Amanda Johnston, Mahogany Brown, Jonterri Gadson; Bob Holman; and John Lee Clark.

We are featuring work by the finalists at our blog. First up: here’s an interview with John Lee Clark. (click)

I adore working with these folks. Adore it. You’ll love the vibe here too, just come on out!! You don’t want to miss these world-moving poets.