Talking fact to energy at Break up This Rock

D.C.’s 10th annual poetry competition guarantees variety and resistance.

“You poets, get busy!” David, my late brother, a non-poet, instructed me on New Yr’s in 2017 once I, like so many, was saddened and outraged that Donald J. Trump would quickly turn out to be president, “your poems’ll minimize by way of the bullshit.”

Say the phrase poet, and also you may consider scribes on Mount Olympus gazing on the clouds. However, you’d be fallacious. David, in his earthy manner, nailed it. Poetry isn’t other-worldly, it’s mired within the muck and mire — the battle for justice — on this world.

Break up This Rock, a D.C.-based, nationwide poetry group that works for social change, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this yr. Its poetry competition, Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018, can be held in venues all through D.C. from April 19-21; go to for particulars.

Poetry isn’t an elite, ethereal artwork type. It’s as important as meals, water or having sufficient air to breathe. Poets have at all times challenged the highly effective and instructed the suppressed tales of these with little energy, Break up This Rock govt director Sarah Browning emailed the Blade.

“Which is why our phrases are on the lips of revolutionaries and why tyrants don’t very like us,” she mentioned.

Plato blamed poets for the issues in his Republic. Traditionally, to be a poet has been a political act. That is much more true, at present, within the Trump period the place the lives and civil rights of so many from LGBTQ individuals to individuals of coloration are threatened.  “Essentially the most marginalized – LGBTQ poets, individuals with disabilities, poets of coloration, undocumented poets, poets whose lives intersect these identities,” Browning mentioned, “are probably the most important at instances of disaster comparable to these.”

Throughout the week when Trump was inaugurated, Break up This Rock posted six poems on its web site. One of many poems posted, “Declaration of Inter-Dependence,” a poem by homosexual, Latino poet Richard Blanco, is a strong name to motion in opposition to injustice. “We’re the residing who mild vigil candles and the cop who didn’t shoot./We’re the inmate along with his volunteer trainer diagraming sentences, the/Buddhist alongside the stockbroker serving soup at a shelter. We’re the/grandfather taking a selfie along with his grandson and his husband,”  Blanco wrote.

As a lesbian poet, I generally really feel considerably remoted at poetry readings. At some occasions, it appears as if the sensibility is just too hetero. At different instances, like different queer poets, I’ve encountered outright or delicate homophobia. As soon as, once I was in a web based poetry workshop, the trainer mentioned I ought to “warn readers that there’s same-sex attraction on this poem.”

Break up This Rock has been a haven for LGBTQ poets. From its starting, queer poets have been an integral presence at Break up This Rock. Lesbian poet Adrienne Wealthy despatched STR $1,000 and a word when the group was organizing its first competition. “Might this gathering encourage and affirm the spirit of many, particularly youthful poets and academics, who’ve felt betrayed by company authorities and media, by damaged guarantees and opportunism,” Wealthy wrote, “thanks to your perception within the releasing energy of language and motion.”

In 2012, STR devoted its competition to the reminiscence of the late black, queer poet June Jordan. The group’s T-shirt that yr quoted the road “We’re those we’ve got been ready for” from Jordan’s poem “Poem for South African Ladies.”

Native LGBTQ poets from STR board co-chair Dan Vera to Package Bronson to Charles Doolittle are an integral a part of Break up This Rock. I’ll always remember what it was prefer to learn with queer D.C.-area poet Venus Thrash at Busboys & Poets. Listening to Venus learn (“There can be no parchment certificates/stamped with any state’s approval/confirming we’re married or in love”) from her poem “Uncivil,” knocked the socks off of me and everybody within the room.

Queer poets Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, who co-edited the enduring early anthology of girls’s poetry “No Extra Masks!,” Terisa Siagatonu and Paul Tran can be featured at this yr’s STR competition.

Whether or not or not we’re poets, we aren’t LGBTQ in a vacuum. We reside within the midst of the broader tradition the place many identities and lots of types of oppression intersect. This yr’s STR competition will provide wide-ranging readings, workshops and occasions from an “Arabic/English Poetry Recreation Workshop” to “Sister Love: Celebrating the Letters Between Pat Parker and Audre Lorde” to a Deaf Poets Society studying.

Do you need to converse fact to energy? To maintain on retaining on? Try Break up This Rock’s 2018 competition.


Kathi Wolfe, a author and a poet, is an everyday contributor to the Blade.

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