Split This Rock: They Will Beat Their Guns Into Poems

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The kids in D.C. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez

Seeking to "add voices of witness and imagination” to the conversation on guns, socially active poets with Split This Rock held a poetry slam Friday before joining D.C. kids at the National School Walkout to honor the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine shooting. The reading came amidst a three-day festival to mark the group's 10th year, featuring events like "Louder Than A Gun: Open Mic For Our Lives." With the dark shadow of mass shootings persisting, argues a Split the Rock founder, “Poets have a way of cutting through the rhetoric, the propaganda (to remind us) we’re not talking about policy, we’re talking about people who get up every morning and treasure one another.”

Before joining students to sit silently for 19 minutes as speakers read the names of Columbine victims and then march down Pennsylvania Avenue, about two dozen members of Split the Rock climbed a makeshift stage to eachadd a line to a piece titled “Longer than a Gun.” Their ensuing "tapestry of voices" included the lines, “My country ’tis a quivering child’s breath, held in a closet....Our hearts are less fragile than the nothingness that pulls the trigger...What is it worth? Building graveyards on the backs of our children?” and, from longtime activist Joanne Rocky, “They will beat their guns into poems, and sing out love.”


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