Friday, November 27, 2015


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November 24, 2015


Today's the day! We're thrilled to tell you that registration is now open for Split This Rock Poetry Festival, April 14-17, 2016.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for four days of poetry, community building, and creative transformation. 

Featuring readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, open mics, and activism, the festival offers opportunities to speak out for justice, build connection and community, and celebrate the many ways poetry can act as an agent for social change.

The fifth biennial festival will take place April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC. Click here to register today. Only $100 if you register by Februrary 14. And only $50 for students. (Presenters' rate is $85 before February 14, $100 after.)

We know it's going to be an extraordinary four days. More information is below and on the website. We hope you'll consider helping to make it possible for others to attend by making a donation, too. You'll be prompted on theregistration page

Finally, please help us spread the word - scroll down for ways you can help.

Thank you! We can't wait to see you in April!

In peace & poetry, 
Split This Rock 
Top 10 Reasons 
to Join Us for 
Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016:
  1. Passionate voices for justice & peace - Where else are you going to hear readings by 15 of the most artistically vibrant and important poets writing today, all on the same stage? See video from 2014 on Youtube.
  2. Need names? Here they are - Amal al-Jubouri, Jennifer Bartlett, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Regie Cabico, Dominique Christina, Martha Collins, Nikky Finney, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rigoberto Gonz├ílez, Linda Hogan, Dawn Lundy Martin, Craig Santos Perez, and Ocean Vuong. Read more about them on our website
  3. Plus the U.S. Poet Laureate! - The festival begins with a special kick-off event on Wednesday April 13 at the Library of Congress with Juan Felipe Herrera. Stay tuned for details.
  4. Compelling conversations - Join us for panel & roundtable discussions on craft, allyship, the Middle East, the role poetry plays in the Black Lives Matterand environmental justice movements, and many more essential topics.
  5. Workshops for your mind, body & spirit - Explore the intersections of poetry with hip hop, labor movements, liturgy, food justice, journalism, and more! Read about the workshops on our website.
  6. Group readings! - Themed group readings elevating marginalized voices focused on worker rights, eco-justice, disability, policing of brown and black bodies, the intersection of Queerness and race, and so much more.
  7. Voices of the future - Youth poets will read, lead writing workshops, teach participants how to nurture youth voices in their own communities, and generally school the grownups on kicking ass and taking names.
  8. Poetry in the streets - With our world crying out for equity and justice, poets will take to the streets with the imaginative and transformative power of poetry. Check out photos of the previous public action on our website.
  9. Only $100! - That's right, all this for the early-bird rate of only $100. Register today! On February 14 the rate goes up to $140. Click here to save today.
  10. Students are only $50 - And scholarships and group rates are available. We want everyone to be able to attend, regardless of ability to pay. Details are here! Contact info for requesting group rates listed below.
So many more reasons, too - Meet up with old friends, make new connections in poetry and activist circles, explore and celebrate the ways that poetry can be an agent for change, read and perform at open mics, get your groove on at the Saturday evening party hosted by Dark Noise Collective & Busboys and Poets... Four days of transformative events in our nation's capital!
SpreadTheWordHelp Spread the Word!
  • Forward this email to friends. Use the link at the bottom of the email.
  • Post the announcement to your Facebook, Twitter, blog, or other social media site.
  • Send post cards to your friends and colleagues and/or leave stacks at libraries, cafes, and bookstores. Contact to get a stack. 
  • Are you a teacher or student? Have your institution sponsor a group of students for a special group rate. Contact Tiana at or 202-787-5268.
  • Want to sponsor? It's a great way to support the festival and get lots of visibility with leaders in the literary and social justice worlds. Visit our websitefor details or contact us at 202-787-5210 or
  • Other ideas? Contact - we'd love your help!
Poetry Magazine 
Split This Rock Collaborate

Split This Rock and 
Poetry magazine announce a collaboration: A special portfolio in the April 2016 issue of 
Poetry, with new poems by poets to be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016.

Timed to coincide with Split This Rock's fifth biennial nationalfestival, the portfolio will be co-edited by Poetry editor Don Share and Split This Rock Executive Director Sarah Browning, with an introduction by Browning. The portfolio will also be the focus of the magazine's monthly podcast.

Poetry, founded in 1912, is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Subscribe to the magazine here.
Support Split This Rock 
Please support Split This Rock, the national network of activist poets. Donations are fully tax-deductible. 

Click here to donate a one time or monthly gift. Or send a check payable to "Split This Rock" to: Split This Rock, 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036. Many thanks!

Contact for more details or to become a sponsor.

Split This Rock



To be honest -- history just repeats. Same monkey, different outfit. Is this the planet of the apes? One man's ideology is another man's religion. One man's greed is another man's necessity. 

We became cynical about King's dream. People say it was co-opted to suit another agenda and they may be missing the point all together, or abandoning possibilities. Why replace names on buildings that were not built for you in the first place. Build new buildings. Build new dreams. Just build. 

No body dreams anymore. We forget reality begins with a vision or a word. Langston said as much -- "I dream a world."

Looking at the footage of the 60s, I wonder how we got out of that one alive. My mom doesn't even remember the violence with the exception of the assassinations. Even then, her only thought was getting home to her kids.


November 23, 2015
Across the nation, students have risen up to demand an end to systemic and structural racism on campus. Here are their demands. Note: These demands were compiled from protesters across the country. These are living demands and will grow and change as the work grows and changes. If you have demands that are not listed, please send them or @samswey. Last updated on 11/23/2015.
For information about upcoming actions and opportunities to get involved, visit
List of Campuses Represented (last updated 11.23.15):
  1. Black Liberation Collective #StudentBlackOut Demands (Multiple Colleges) (Link to Demands)
  2. University of Missouri (Link to Demands)
  3. Amherst College (Link to Demands)
  4. Atlanta University Center Consortium (Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, ITC) (Link to Demands)
  5. Beloit College (Link to Demands)
  6. Boston College (Link to Demands)
  7. Brandeis University (Link to Demands)
  8. Brown University (Link to Demands)
  9. Claremont McKenna College (Link to Demands)
  10. Clemson University (Link to Demands)
  11. Dartmouth College (Link to Demands)
  12. Duke University (Link to Demands)
  13. Eastern Michigan University (Link to Demands)
  14. Emory University (Link to Demands)
  15. Georgia Southern University (Link to Demands)
  16. Guilford College (Link to Demands)
  17. Harvard University (Link to Demands)
  18. Ithaca College (Link to Demands)
  19. Johns Hopkins University (Link to Demands)
  20. Kennesaw State University (Link to Demands)
  21. Lawrence University (Link to Demands)
  22. Lewis and Clark College (Link to Demands)
  23. Loyola University Maryland (Link to Demands)
  24. Michigan State University (Link to Demands)
  25. Middle Tennessee State University (Link to Demands)
  26. Missouri State University (Link to Demands)
  27. New York University (Link to Demands)
  28. Notre Dame of Maryland University (Link to Demands)
  29. Occidental College (Link to Demands)
  30. Portland State University (Link to Demands)
  31. Purdue University (Link to Demands)
  32. San Francisco State University (Link to Demands)
  33. Santa Clara University (Link to Demands)
  34. Sarah Lawrence College (Link to Demands)
  35. Simmons College (Link to Demands)
  36. Southern Methodist University (Link to Demands)
  37. St. Louis University (Link to Demands)
  38. Towson University (Link to Demands)
  39. Tufts University (Link to Demands)
  40. University of Alabama (Link to Demands)
  41. University of Baltimore (Link to Demands)
  42. University of California, Berkeley (Link to Demands)
  43. UCLA (Link to Demands)
  44. University of Cincinnati (Link to Demands)
  45. University of Kansas (Link to Demands)
  46. University of Michigan (Link to Demands)
  47. University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Link to Demands)
  48. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Link to Demands)
  49. University of Oregon (Link to Demands)
  50. University of Ottawa (Link to Demands)
  51. University of Puget Sound (Link to Demands)
  52. University of San Diego (Link to Demands)
  53. University of South Carolina (Link to Demands)
  54. University of Southern California (Link to Demands)
  55. University of Toronto (Link to Demands)
  56. University of Virginia (Link to Demands)
  57. University of Wyoming (Link to Demands)
  58. Vanderbilt University (Link to Demands)
  59. Virginia Commonwealth U. (Link to Demands)
  60. Washington University in St. Louis (Link to Demands)
  61. Webster University (Link to Demands)
  62. Wesleyan University Demands (Link to Demands)
  63. Yale University (Link to Demands)
Visit for the complete list of demands and amazing images of student protest from various campuses. 



Too many people accept the ordinary life. I find it to be suffocating. The most restrictive things are family and marriage. Ordinary people need structure and order in their lives. It's time for me to draw outside the lines. Why do we think about the past so much?  Only bold thinking and action will make yesterday different from tomorrow. All problems exist in the present.


For my birthday my friend Grace gave me a Singing Bowl from Tibet. This morning I placed it on the altar in my office. It's good to remind myself now and then of the path I need to be on. Next year I hope to reach the bend in the road; the place where you can no longer see what is behind you. 2015 has been a time of transformation. The best thing to happen was my forced departure from Howard University. The separation has encouraged me to grow and think "open mind." How long could I remain in a place talking about DuBois for the rest of my life? I don't want my cell phone to change more than I do.

It's time to put my house in order. What this means is the separation from things I once held dear.
It's also a time for silence and contemplation. The last few months I've spent too much time in cafes. I need to be reading and letting go of clutter and those things responsible for personal chaos. My life is out of order on a number of levels. Time to fix things.

The last month will be here in a few days. I need to live it as if it was my last.
Time to say good-bye to many things. The first thing to go is what I see in the mirror.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I got a nice note this week from Linton Kwesi Johnson.  So good to be back in touch with this brother.
Strange Brew by John Deering

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


History is becoming memoir. This might be an outgrowth of our love for storytelling. When I discuss memoir writing I often mention the need to write about what one has been a witness to, as well as deciding what events one feels a need to reinterpret. I also ask the question - can one speak for the dead?

Lately there has been a desire to tell history "straight" as if it was a line in a poem. History too often contains lint which clings to one's new clothes. History like knowledge disappoints. If I'm told George Washington once owned slaves might I not believe he crossed the Delaware?  When I was a child I was taught he threw a coin across a river. Did he never tell a lie? What if I now compare George Washington to Bill Cosby?

If we name our computers after apples it's just a matter of time before we are all Syrians crossing a border out of Eden.

There is a danger of trying to correct the past especially if one has the ability to time travel. Is there a connection between the theory of racism and the theory of relativity?  Do we all have to be Einstein in order to live together or do we just have to get the numbers right?

Each generation writes its story but struggles with revision. It's easy to mistake someone like Pope Francis as a workshop leader. The man makes sense standing in front of the room. Should our desire to save the planet be linked to the challenge to walk on water?  Who will teach us? If we are to survive we will need miracles. Right now we've become Houdini holding his breath underneath another war. The problem with becoming an escape artist is believing one can always escape.

Everyday we seem to be standing at the edge of a cliff. The problem of the 21st century is religion.

Yes, one man's fast is another man's slow. Tell me a story I can believe. Tell me the story of the world before it was born. Let me know what it was like before earth, water or air?  Tell me a myth I can use as a mirror. There is too much darkness in the world. People keep bumping into one another like stars afraid of the night.

I want to believe in sun and moon before I close my eyes. My ears have long departed. I no longer hear the screaming or the moans - every neighbor is now a stranger. I am alone as naked as the first curse placed on man.  I suffer the heavy blues - the weight of generations and failed nations. How long has my soul been gone?  How long must I wait for its return?  Dear God, I thought it was the fire next time. Why do you hesitate?  The eyes of the living are now filled with a flood of tears. Drown us now or let us walk free. You've given us the hesitation blues.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Below is an excerpt of a talk I gave at Busboys and Poets (14th & V Street) on November 20th:

For years I had read letters written between Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps. Their big book of letters was on a shelf not far from my desk when I worked at Howard University. I consulted in on many occasions. For some strange reason I never purchased this book for my personal collection. I did buy a copy (and reviewed ) of REMEMBER ME TO HARLEM: THE LETTERS OF LANGSTON HUGHES AND CARL VAN VECHTEN 1925 - 1964 edited by Emily Bernard. This book was published in 2001.

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF LANGSTON HUGHES contains letters from 1921 to 1967. Just reading the footnotes in this book can be as exciting and informative as the letters. Arnold Rampersad who has written a two-volume biography of Hughes did an excellent job putting this book together.

But why is this book important?

Despite all of his writing - Hughes was a private man. There continues to be ongoing speculation about his relationship with his father, Zora Neale Hurston, and even his sexual orientation. Hughes was an eyewitness to the New Negro Movement or Harlem Renaissance, his work was very political during the 1930s. He was one of the artists targeted for his Left wing politics in the 1950s. He influenced many of the artists who would emerge during the turbulent 1960s. In many ways the letters of Langston Hughes provides a window into American history. According to Rampersad the sheer number of letters and their quality has much to do with the basic love Hughes had for his people. Letters were a way of maintaining friendships and conducting business. Sometimes Hughes would write 30 letters a day.

Since Hughes was one of the few American writers to make his living primarily from his writing, his correspondence serves as a magnifying glass as to how difficult it is to make a living as a writer. He called himself a literary sharecropper toiling away for next to nothing on the publisher's plantation.

As editor Rampersad found the Langston Hughes letters "lyrical, romantic, flirtatious, ironical, sardonic, allusive, casual, objective or businesslike."

In the book the longest letters are to Claude McKay. The most letters he wrote to anyone was to Arna Bontemps. There are many letters that illustrate how supportive he was to younger writers like Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker and Alice Walker.

Fear never zips its pants after peeing.

   - E. Ethelbert Miller

Friday, November 20, 2015

Need an Expert to Interview * Speak * Educate * Inspire?
Contact Nommo Speaker's Bureau to book dynamic Speakers
E. Ethelbert Miller 
The Power of the Poet
If the pen is indeed, mightier than the sword, then the New York-born, Washington, D.C. –based, poet, educator and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller has been one of the most powerful people in the Nation’s Capital for the last four decades.  He has contributed significantly to the literary landscape and participated in the development of policy in arts organizations, universities and global think-tanks that transform conventional mindsets.
This prolific Nommo Speaker is a literary activist who has served on a multitude of boards (Split This RockThe Writer's Center...) – sometimes, the only Black voice at the table, advocating for Black, non-white and female authors and fresh new voices overall. Miller currently serves as board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington, and D.C. progressive think tank composed of scholars and organizers that globally link peace, justice and the environment.  For over 10 years he has served as editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry journal published in the United States.  
A passionate speaker, Miller has published and co-edited over a dozen books of poetry, essays and two memoirs including: First Light: New and Selected PoemsFathering Words: The Making of an African-American Writer and The Fifth Inning. In the spring of 2016, he will publish his Magnus Opus: The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller (Willow Books, Spring 2016 release), edited by Professor Kirsten Porter of Marymount University. This book represents the full arc of Miller’s subjects, which include: international affairs, politics, loneliness, depression and most of all, love.

A child of the 1950's, Miller who celebrates his birthday on November 20th, says that when he looks at the body of work that he has done, he thinks it’s extremely significant.  “I’ve become a better writer… you’ll see how the structure of my work has changed” (in upcoming collection of poems). Miller’s literary work garnered him a 1995 Folger Shakespeare Library O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize for excellence in poetry and teaching. But there’s more to Miller than the printed page.

"A poet is given the unique responsibility of composing the poems that become the songs of a nation... E. Ethelbert Miller's poems sing America's heart-song... His language promotes compassion, healing, and amazing grace," writes Professor Kirsten Porter of Marymount University in the introduction for Miller's upcoming book, "The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller."  Porter eloquently writes that "the change Miller envisions (in his poetry) is inclusive - the emotions evoked by hardship and celebration are not relegated to one race, one ethnicity, one religion." 

"His (E. Ethelbert Miller) words are a call for love and equality, a protest against oppression, a prayer or change."  -Kirsten Porter

Miller has kept very busy over the years reading, writing, discovering new poets and spreading his writing expertise. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist Program Fellow to Israel (2004 and 2014), he was the keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Israel at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. He served as the Commissioner for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (1997-2008), and a commencement speaker at the Emory and Henry College where he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature.  He is also board emeritus for the PEN/ Faulkner Foundation.

At one time in my career – in the late eighties and nineties – I sat on the board of every major literary organization. I can’t think of another writer, or African-American writer, who has been involved in all of those boards at the same time."

Miller's "poems work to find the tenderness and connective tissue among all men and women in order to further what Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned as the Beloved Community."    -Kirsten Porter
Miller extends his literary activism to his teaching and broadcasting.  He taught at The University of Nevada-Las Vegas, American University, George Mason University, and Emory and Henry College. He was a core faculty member with the Bennington Writing Seminars.  Miller is often heard on National Public Radio, and he is host and producer of The Scholars on The University of the District of Columbia’s local cable channel (UDC-TV). He writes a regular monthly column, E on DC for Capital Community News, and his blog E-Notes.

He teaches an on-line class on memoir at the University of Houston-Victoria, who also requested that he teach a class on poet, Langston Hughes. "What I’m trying to do is turn my lectures into a book of essays” Miller says.  He is in the process of developing speaking engagements essential to educating the next generation about important cultural events and literary creatives who have had a formidable impact on American history.  Miller is passionate about exposing the timeless works and words of great historical authors/poets such as; Langston Hughes, June Jordan, James Baldwin, Sterling Brown as well as writer Charles Johnson’s view of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He also critically analyses and connects the relevance of major American cultural events and themes explored by the Black Arts Movement and Harlem Renaissance with insightful and thought-provoking lectures and workshops.

At an age when most people look to retire, E. Ethelbert Miller has more time to enjoy his family and continue his activities.  His contributions to iconic organizations like the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, and his inclusion in anthologies which transcend cultural boundaries, are testament to his well-deserved moniker; the literary activist.  After serving as the Director of the African American Resource Center at his Alma Mater, Howard University for the last 40 years, he is now 
free to devote even more time to his prose, promoting his works, and coming up with poetic questions that warrant answers... 

               STRIKE II.
                  Why do poets
                  Try to change the rules of the game?
                  Why is death America's pastime?
by E. Ethelbert Miller
Except: Hitless And Crying At the Plate

Click to listen to Miller on NPR:
On The 5th Inning | On Fatherhood

Jonathan Wilson -
  To book E. Ethelbert Miller for a speaking engagement, reading, or book signing contact  us at Nommo Speaker's Bureau: | (202)505-3144
*An ideal speaker for MLK Holiday Commemoration Events |
Black History Month | National Poetry Month | Convocations | Graduations...

Written by: Eugene Holley, Jr.  |   Layout Design by: Nigel Van Gronigen, Jr. | Photo Credit: Teri Gentry 
E. Ethelbert Miller's Favorite NOMMO Words:
Our contact info is: | (202)505-3144

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*|E. Ethelbert Miller Profile|* *|November 2015|*

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