The Kennedy Center

Split This Rock


Kicking off the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, this showcase of powerful and award-winning poetry features both artists and staff from the nonprofit poetry organization hosting the biennial festival in DC, Split This Rock. High school poets from Split This Rock’s youth program, the DC Youth Slam Team, will perform their original spoken word poetry on the same stage with Native American poet, musician, and author Joy Harjo, master teacher and international slam champion, Gayle Danley, and the poets and staff members that make Split This Rock possible.

Split This Rock calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from our home in the nation’s capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.

Split This Rock is dedicated to revitalizing poetry as a living, breathing art form with profound relevance in our daily lives and struggles. Our programs integrate poetry of provocation and witness into movements for social justice and support the poets of all ages who write and perform this vital work.

The name "Split This Rock" is pulled from a line in “Big Buddy,” a poem from Langston Hughes.

        Don’t you hear this hammer ring?
        I’m gonna split this rock
        And split it wide!
        When I split this rock,
        Stand by my side.

The work of writing the poems that split open the injustices in society is in some ways a solitary act, but it is also an act that requires community. Split This Rock calls all of us to split this rock, and to do it together.

Upcoming Performances

Video 4/28/2019: Louder Than a Bomb

Each year, Louder Than a Bomb—DMV (LTAB–DMV) showcases teams of youth poets, representing high schools and community organizations in the region, from Montgomery County, Maryland to Fairfax County, Virginia, to share their stories, learn from one another, and build community. After months of preparation and a competitive series of preliminary slams, the top teams meet to compete for the the title of LTAB–DMV champion on the final stage!

Watch Past Performances

Video 5/6/2018: Split This Rock presents Louder Than A Bomb DMV 2018 FINALS

Split This Rock Presents Louder Than A Bomb DMV 2018 FINALS, the final competition of LTAB-DMV, a regional version of Young Chicago Authors’ nationally celebrated festival. High school-aged groups in teams of five participate in the week-long festival including open mics, workshops, and a poetry slam tournament, culminating in the crowning of LTAB-DMV 2018 Grand Champion.

This program contains mature themes and strong language.

Free general admission tickets will be distributed in the Hall of States starting at approximately 5 p.m., up to two tickets per person.

Video 8/21/2017: New Frontiers: Back to School Youth Rally

In observance of the Great American Eclipse, our nation’s first full solar eclipse in decades, the New Frontiers: Back to School Youth Rally will feature ‘stellar” youth performances by StepAfrika, Split this Rock, Washington Performing Arts’ Children of the Gospel, and The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, accompanied by the NEWorks House Band.

Make the Kennedy Center your solar eclipse destination! Come early to experience the eclipse at the Kennedy Center, and then join us for free interactive space and eclipse themed workshops led by Boys and Girls Club from 4-5:30 pm in the Grand Foyer and on the River Terrace.

Presented in collaboration with NEWorks Productions and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts (Philadelphia, PA)

Video 3/26/2014: One Mic Creative Ecosystem Presents Split This Rock Poetry Festival

The One Mic Creative Ecosystem presents this performance in partnership with Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2014, which invites poets, writers, activists, and dreamers to Washington, DC for four days of poetry, community building, and creative transformation. Participants include Joy Harjo, Gayle Danley, three members of the DC Youth Slam Team, and Split This Rock staffers Sarah Browning, Pages Matam, Jonathan B. Tucker, Alisha Gregory, and Camisha JonesPart of One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide.

Split This Rock