By Nora Tarabishi, Bloc Reporter
Despite the rainy weather, Split This Rock participants celebrated the organization’s 4th biennial poetry festival at the National Geographic Museum in D.C. from March 27 to March 30.
The festival calls on socially engaged poets to honor poetic diversity and the transformative power of imagination. Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness explores how poetry acts as an agent for change.
The D.C. premiere poetry event is the only one of its kind in the country and includes workshops, panel discussions, open mics, youth programs and poetry readings.
The first festival in March 2008 brought together hundreds of poets and activists from around the nation to D.C. The festival is held every two years and cosponsors of the festival include the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House at this university.
Saturday’s featured presentations opened with a reading from D.C. native Lauren May, 17. May’s poetry speaks of personal struggles, family, mental health, social problems and the celebration of life.
“Poetry helped me get through high school,” May said. “The Split This Rock family is more than just poets; they are humans and they help.”
May said she has written poetry since she had the ability to write, but her school’s poetry club officially introduced her to slam poetry when she joined in 10th grade.
“She’s like a mother to the D.C. Youth Slam Team,” May said. “I’ve learned so much from her at her workshops.”
May said she isn’t sure where she will go to college, but she will continue with poetry.
“Poetry will always be a part of my life,” May said. “If I’m a doctor, I’ll be a doctor who’s a poet. If I’m a chef, I’ll be a chef who’s a poet.”
Another young member of the D.C. Youth Slam Team expressed her gratitude for the Split This Rock festival.
“As a junior [and] senior in high school, it’s really hard to know who you are,” said Amina Iro, 17, an Eleanor Roosevelt High School student. “But I think the D.C. Youth Slam Team took my little interest in poetry and made it something real. It propelled me to heights that I never thought I would be at.”
Andrew Hamm, 23, attended the festival by chance. Hamm said he enjoyed Danley’s “Just Like You,” a poem retelling Danley’s experience reading to a group of kids in a Richmond, Va., juvenile delinquent center.
“I really enjoyed Gayle’s last poem about trying to connect with the boy in prison,” Hamm said. “I liked when she talked about being let down with her own abilities and doing what you can do and giving what you can give for others.”
After an hour-and-a-half of poetry readings, the five poets gathered in the lobby of the museum to sign books, take pictures and answer any questions.