SPLIT THIS ROCK: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Volume 9, Number 1
Winter 2008


Introduction by Regie Cabico

Is poetry like food in that it satisfies a hunger? A basic culinary vocabulary and listing of ingredients & spices prepared with another list of preparation and service so that the mass of starving people may or may not ingest to fill this "void"?

To me political poetry is borne out of a hunger that is derived out of silence.

A silence observing years of a "right" way, years of a "straight" way, years of a "normal" way, years of a "moral" way, years of an "American" way, years of a "religious" way, years of a "pop culture" way, years of a "poetry slam" way, years of an "MFA" way. A "narrative" way, an "experimental" way… and on and on…

Anas "Andy" Shallal
detail, Peace in Struggle Wall, 2005
mural installed at Buboys and Poets, 1390 V Street NW, DC
For more information on this artist, see http://www.busboysandpoets.com/

I am the product of Filipino immigrants. I straddled African American & Catholic, Redneck & Suburban Middle-class life to develop an ear for English, influenced by Tagalog, Spanish and Musical Theater. I acquired fierce literary skill to perform what I write to stay sane and I write because American theater and media would not cast me other than a criminal or servant. I will never be "Filipino" and I will never be "American." I will only be "Filipino-American." This hybrid world is where political poetry exists for me, a "dangerous," "undefined," "other," "enlightened" territory. I take people right to the edge before falling off the cliff. It is from that altitude that I hope a "political" poem will take a listener or reader, a height of fearlessness and grace.

Dear Readers:

What you have before you is a broad canvas of poetry that aims to fill the "void," the "silences" that exist in a city sound-proofed by marble, door codes and a literary history bridging Walt Whitman, James Baldwin and Essex Hemphill. When you strip the CNN Washington, DC you will find unique neighborhoods of voices bringing astute observations about gentrification, pop culture, immigration, war, heritage, disability, history and American iconography into the equation.

I spent the first half of my life in Washington, DC being an actor and have recently returned from New York City, a poet, eager to fill the "black" and "white" voids that exist. Being on the planning committee for Split This Rock and working with Sarah Browning and Melissa Tuckey has been a dream for me: creating a home in our nation’s Capitol for national artists, to give a forum for political poetry in the gut of a government that should hear, swallow and ingest verses of provocation and witness. It is also an honor forming those passionate and talented alliances with DC poets in preparation for the arrival of like-minded artist-activists across the country for the first DC literary festival of this magnitude.

This festival and these poets fill a long-awaited void. Our hunger is so fierce that we can eat locusts and scorpions. Our words are borne out of a post-9/11 plague of fear for our future, for the ignorant and those ignored. This festival is totally grassroots, survival. Very few corporations and governmental grants will touch us. We cook these words to stay alive, splitting one rock at a time.

Special thanks to Kim Roberts and Pauline Tran for their help making this issue possible. Thanks also to Andy Shallal, artist, restauranteur, and member of the Split This Rock advisory board, for use of the visual image that accompanies this issue.

And please plan to join us for the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March! Beltway Poetry Quarterly is coordinating three concurrent literary walking tours that emphasize DC's rich history: a Walt Whitman tour of downtown, a GLBT tour of Dupont Circle, and a "Harlem" Renaissance tour of U Street. Tours take place on Saturday, March 22 from 10:30 to noon and pre-registration is required.

Regie Cabico, Guest Editor

Regie Cabico
was born in Baltimore, MD and raised in the DC suburbs of Prince George's County. He won the 1993 Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and took top prizes in the 1993, 1994, and 1997 National Poetry Slams. He is the recipient of a 2008 Individual Artist Grant in Poetry from the DC Commission on the Arts, three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships for Poetry and Performance Art, and the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award presented by Poets & Writers. He co-edited Poetry Nation: A North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry (Vehicule Press, 1998) and his work appears in Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, and Spoken Word Revolution, among other anthologies. He has appeared on two seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam and his plays have been produced at the Humana Theater Festival, Joe's Pub, The Public Theater, Dixon Place, Theater Offensive, and the Kennedy Center Play Lab. He is former artist-in-residence for NYU's Asian/Pacific/American Institute and presently works as the Artistic Director of Sol & Soul, an arts and activist organization promoting poetry and political theater in Washington, DC. Regie is on the Coordinating Committee of Split this Rock Poetry Festival.


Read more by this guest editor:
Regie Cabico
Regie Cabico
: Audio Issue
Regie Cabico: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Regie Cabico on DC Slam: Literary Organizations Issue
Regie Cabico: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Regie Cabico: Floricanto Issue
Regie Cabico on Essex Hemphill: Poetic Ancestors Issue


Table of Contents

Naomi Ayala


Rosemary Winslow

Morning with Butter Sky

Heather Davis

Green Card
Report from the Front

Melissa Tuckey

Ghost Fishing Louisiana
When the Giraffes Come

Brian Gilmore

trading places

Princess of Controversy

No More

Tanya Snyder


Grace Cavalieri

Alone Again

Yael Flusberg

When Columbia Road Didn't Pass Me Over

Dan Vera

We Abide in the Irony
Uncle Same Regrets

Kathi Wolfe

J. Edgar Hoover Curses Helen
The Sun is Warm: Nagasaki, 1948

Joel Dias-Porter

Elegy Indigo
Radio Mali American Gothic Blues

Susan Tichy


Winona Addison


Teri Ellen Cross


E. Ethelbert Miller


Sarah Browning

The Final Talk
City of Barricades