Split This Rock announced last week that full registration is sold out for its 2012 festival March22-25 in Washington DC. There are day passes still available; for more information on how to obtain one visit Split This Rock’s Web site. Presenters should still register as planned.
One of the featured readers for the festival is Venus Thrash; a written word poet sometimes mistaken as a spoken word poet, she will be reading the evening of Friday March 23 (click here for a festival schedule). She graduated from American University with a BA in literature and MFA in creative writing. Even though she was an older student, this was one of the most formative period of her life; she feels it’s when she really found her calling, having discovered how comfortable and confident she was in academia. American University was both a learning and nurturing environment for her; she had the best teachers throughout her time there that helped her not only find her voice as a writer but also helped her discover she wanted to be a writer.
In her first year of graduate school she was not known as being a very good poet. She says, “When I think about it now, I kinda laugh. It didn’t even occur to me at the time one way or another because I was happy just being in school, being a student, and writing.” But something happened that first year that altered her writing forever. One late night she was walking through the parking lot when a song popped into her her head and she started singing. Driving home, she thought it weird since she hadn’t sung that song, much less thought about it since the first time she heard it many years before, when she went to see Black Nativity at the Kennedy Center with a friend. The song came near the end of the play: ‘Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham’, which is ultimately about a soul going home to rest. When she arrived home from her late night at American there was a message on her answering machine from her friend’s mom telling Thrash her friend had passed away.
He had been sick for a while, and Thrash remembers, “It was crushing news on so many levels because he had been doing better and I was hopeful that he’d have many more years. I was devastated. He was an exceptionally good friend to have and a very difficult one to lose. I came to see the song as a sign of his spirit saying he’s alright, he’s finally free, but most importantly, I could hear him saying, ‘don’t worry about it, girl, I’ll be back.’ But for many days I was torn up over his death and then I wrote a poem about it and I believe writing that poem was a turning point for my poetry because this poem had a distinct deep emotional core that I hadn’t experienced before, in addition to having form, poetic style, and maturity. This was the epiphany.”
Thrash has had some poetry published in various journals and anthologies, of which she is very grateful, but she says, “I think the poetry world might be too small for me or too big. I don’t know which. I mean there’s ten million folks knocking on that door or just kicking [it] in. Some get in. Some don’t. But if it doesn’t happen for me, it’s not the end of the world.” She’s working on a collection of short stories at the moment, her interest having turned to fiction a little, and she is very excited about it.
Who is your favorite poet?
I read a lot of poets and I take it all in and many of them I admire, but I can’t say that I have a favorite one way or the other. There’s too many. Anyway, I’m really digging my own poetic voice right now. I’m down with the rhythm, tone and text. I feel connected to the content. It sounds and feels different to me than other poetry, and I like that. Some poems feel like they’re straining to be born. I want my poems to sound and be natural. I want my poetry to be distinct, vastly accessible, and possess poetic skill, style, and craft. I dig the poems I’m creating right now and I hope they’ll grow stronger.
What is your favorite poem?
Some poems stick with me like thick Georgia grits. Poems that attain depth without being unreachable, and emotion without sappiness are the ones that tend to move me. But I also think those are some of the hardest poems to write. Really it’s strange for me to think of poems and poets in terms of who’s or what’s my favorite. I think of poetry in a more nuanced, intimate, and cerebral way. Also, I love assonance, anaphora, and leitmotifs.
Why Split This Rock Festival? What draws you to it?
I’m really humbled that Sarah asked me to participate in Split This Rock, 2012. There are so many talented poets who will be there. I’m glad to be included among them. I believe STR is vital to the poetry industrial complex in that it focuses on poetry as politic, as resistance, revelatory of everyday lives, a powerful voice of protest, a movement against oppression and injustice. STR is also crucial in that it features apoets from a diversity of cultural, ethnic, social, and sexual backgrounds who are emerging, prolific, mid-career, spoken word, formal, and experimental poets. That kind of conscientious inclusion is rare at festivals and conferences and even in the realm of poetry publishing. From my perspective, that is what makes STR so special.
Talk a bit about what you will be reading as a featured poet.
For the most part, I want to read quite a few of my new poems, and if there’s time, maybe a few of the older ones that folks usually ask me to read. These poems are raw in that they haven’t gone through the revision process yet, so we’ll see how it goes down. It’s exciting to read new work.