Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Split This Rock 2014

     Plan now to attend the 4th national biennial Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness in Washington, DC, March 27-30, 2014.  The sixteen poets to be featured at the 2014 festival are:  Sheila Black, Franny Choi, Eduardo C. Corral, Gayle Danley, Natalie Diaz, Joy Harjo, Maria Melendez Kelson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dunya Mikhail, Shailja Patel, Wang Ping, Claudia Rankine, Tim Seibles, Myra Sklarew, Danez Smith, and Anne Waldman.   The website SplitThisRock.org offers photographs and more information about the festival.  It will be awesome!  

     Numbers are often key ingredients in the poetry of witness.  For example, see this posting related to my workshop at the 2012 Split This Rock Festival.  And here is a moving math-related poem by 2014 festival participant Dunya Mikhail:

The Theory of Absence     by Dunya Mikhail

The hypothesis:  I am tense and so are you.
We neither meet nor separate.

The desired result:  We meet in the absence.

The proof:  As tension turns people into arcs, we are two arcs.
We neither meet nor separate (the hypothesis)
so, we must be parallel.
If two parallel lines are bisected by a third line
(in this case, the line of tension)
their corresponding angles must be equal (a geometrical theorem).
So, we are congruent (because shapes are congruent
when their angles are equal)
and we form a circle (since the sum
of two congruent arcs
is a circle).
Therefore we meet in the absence
(since the circumference of a circle
is the sum of contiguous points
which can each be considered
a point of contact).

Mikhail's poem has been translated by Elizabeth Winslow and is found in The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005).  Here is a link to an 2007 NPR interview of Mikhail (an Iraqi-American now living in Michigan) that includes the title poem.
"The Theory of Absence"  also appears in Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (Edited by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney; A K Peters, 2008).

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