All-virtual rethinking of PEN America’s landmark event series features Yaa Gyasi, Roxane Gay, Ayad Akhtar, Ben Rhodes, Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, and Alexander Chee
Earlier this month PEN America announced its fall lineup for its PEN Out Loud author conversation series. This season, reimagined virtually for our current times, will continue its mission to present meaningful dialogues, highlighting books that offer multilayered, thought-provoking conversations on race and class, immigration and family at a particularly divisive moment.
PEN Out Loud’s fall 2020 season will feature conversations with Yaa Gyasi and Roxane Gay, Ayad Akhtar and Ben Rhodes, Claudia Rankine, and Marilynne Robinson and Alexander Chee. PEN Out Loud is co-presented with Strand Book Store and Scripps Presents.“We’re delighted to offer up a rethinking of our PEN Out Loud series, not just for our all-digital moment, but rather rethinking how conversations are happening in our current all-digital moment,” said PEN America’s Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf. “But we’re still holding fast to our belief that PEN Out Loud is the hallmark national literary series that amplifies diverse voices and convenes the most vital conversations with poets, journalists, artists, and activists.”“We’re delighted to be partnering on the PEN Out Loud series. PEN America’s mission to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible is vital, most especially in this moment,” said Corrina Lesser, artistic director of Scripps Presents.PEN Out Loud Fall 2020 Lineup We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know*
Yaa Gyasi, author of the forthcoming book Transcendent Kingdom, in conversation with Roxane Gay
Tuesday, September 1 at 5pm PT/8pm ET *This is a book launch event America Is My Home*
Ayad Akhtar, author of the forthcoming book Homeland Elegies, in conversation with Ben Rhodes
Tuesday, September 1 at 5pm PT/8pm ET *This is a book launch eventJust Listen
Claudia Rankine, author of the forthcoming book Just Us: An American Conversation, with a conversation partner to be announced
Wednesday, September 30 at 5pm PT/8pm ETGuilt and Grace
Mariynne Robinson, author of the forthcoming book Jack, in conversation with Alexander Chee
Tuesday, October 6 at 5pm PT/8pm ET
Tickets on sale now . . .
PEN Out Loud’s mission remains focused on amplifying diverse voices and convening vital conversations with authors, poets, journalists, artists, and activists.
This fall, these conversations are in direct response to the very specific moment we’re in culturally and politically. In the lead up to the 2020 presidential elections, the whole society is wrestling with the legacy of slavery, a reckoning with police brutality, the consequences of health and economic disparities in the midst of a pandemic, and attacks on press freedom and democracy.
Each author this season examines the fabric of our culture with deft insight and illuminates a wide range of themes such as whiteness, faith, interracial love, midwestern and southern culture, depression, and immigration.
$20 Admission | $35 Admission + Signed Book* * $50 for international shipping
Flash sale until September 7. Use the code FLASHPOL at checkout.
The content of this post is courtesy of PEN.org.
The New Republicis an official media partner of PEN Out Loud’s Fall 2020 season. This program is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
PEN Americastands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Through the decade our 100TPC poet-activist numbers have grown. We’ve expanded to include allies. These creatives from around the world share the values of peace, sustainability, and social justice. They speak out against corruption, cruelty, tyranny, and suppression through poetry, story, music, mime, art and photography, sometimes at personal risk.
If you’ve been involved before, please note the date and participate again. If you haven’t participated in 100TPC, we invite you to become a part of this worthy worldwide initiative.
By “we” I mean:
Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, founders and organizers of Global 100TPC;
The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine and hosts of The BeZine Virtual 100TPC.
FROM PRIOR YEARS:
SAMPLES OF POSTERS FROM
~ Be inspired . . . Be creative . . . Be peace . . . Be ~
The second year I invited poetry against war was 2011. I put up a post on Into the Bardo (the name of the site before it became The BeZine) and invited folks to share their poems in the comments section. That was the last year for Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War and the first year for Michael and Terri’s 100,000 Poets for Change.
Since 2012, we (The Bardo Group) have hosted an annual virtual event on the fourth Saturday of September in concert with Global 100TPC. My thought for going virtual was that there were many others who, like me, are home bound but want to have their say, want to stand for peace, sustainability and social justice. Soon Michael Dickel (Meta/ Phor(e) /Play) joined our team and a new tradition was born. Michael became our Master of Ceremonies.
This year – whether your are homebound or not – we invite you to join with us via The BeZine Virtual 100TPC on September 26. Complete instructions for sharing your work will be included in the post that day. Between us, Michael Dickel and I keep the event running for twenty-four hours or so. Mark your calendars.
Watch for more info here and at The BeZine on these initiatives and . . .
Call for Submissions to the September 15, 2020 issue of The BeZine, which is a prelude to 100TPC;
The Poet by Day 100TPC Wednesday Writing Prompt, September 16, hosted by Michael Dickel; and
In the spirit of love (respect) and community and
on behalf of The Bardo Group,
Jamie Dedes, Founding Editor and
now Co-Manager Editor with Michael Dickel
100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE: Ten years of evolution (2011-2020)
VOL 1: The Memoir
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
From Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion
In the tenth year anniversary of the movement, we are excited to invite all past and present 100TPC organizers and/or participants, to submit a three page essay to be considered for inclusion in the book 100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE [100TPC]: Ten years of evolution (2011-2020), which will be published on a date to be announced.
This book will tell the story of 100TPC from the perspective of the poets who have been a part of creating and sustaining it. Through our personal essays, the reader will learn not only about the individual stories of the hundreds of poets-organizers from all corners, reflecting on the social and cultural effects of such poetic actions, but it will also offer an enriched summary and an organized way to learn about this grassroots movement and its impact on the history of poetry. It can also be thought of as a guidebook and manual, for future generations interested in the strategy of activists engaged in manifesting positive change–peace, justice and sustainability.
You can submit a maximum of two essays, only one (1) per theme. Be sure to send each essay in a separate email (see details below).
1. FOUNDATIONAL EXPERIENCES. First experiences as organizer/ poet/ artist/ audience with 100,000 Poets for Change. 2. LOCAL EXPERIENCES. Experiences seen as a whole, after these ten years. Reflect on your achievements, or whatever you have witnessed, good and bad. You can choose to write about success or disappointments, benefits and limitations, even if you were not an organizer/participant consistently for the past ten years. 3. IMPRESSIONS: Reflections and stories on the philosophy, ideas and spirit propelling the movement. How has this movement informed your poetics? 4. SALERNO. If you participated in the 2015 Salerno conference, you can choose to write about it, as a whole experience, and/or highlighting a specific story or aspects of the conference. 5. READ A POEM TO A CHILD. If you have been part of the Read a Poem to a Child initiative, you can also choose to write about that.
Submission deadline: December 1, 2020
Format guidelines: Word document, Times New Roman, Font 12, Double Spaced.
Maximum 750 words.
Language: If you are not an English speaking writer, please send your text in its original language along with the best possible English translation (three pages max, each). At this point, the project will only include the English version, but we’re studying alternatives to the issue of language, and world accessibility.
Bio & Photos: Please send a fifty word Bio as a Word doc. attachment. Also, and this is optional, you can attach three-to-five good quality images (jpg) related to your essay, and/or the events you organized in your community. Include photo caption and credits. Do not send bio photos. We want exceptional images that offer a glimpse either of the themes or aspects we’ve mentioned above, the collective drive, or the audience reaction.
Please send your submissions and/or any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org In the email’s Subject Matter, please write your essay’s theme.
“The numbers in this Index are, of course, far too high, but we also know that advocacy to free those unjustly behind bars does work. In this moment, when truth is vulnerable, and when the world faces a time of reckoning in which a new future waits to be written, it is imperative that we defend the freedom to write, and work to free those who remain behind bars for daring to exercise that power.” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression at risk programs
On Tuesday PEN America released the inauguralPEN America Freedom to Write Index. It’s the first annual global count of writers and public intellectuals unjustly detained or imprisoned worldwide. Covering calendar year 2019, the inaugural Freedom to Write Index shows that at least 238 writers, academics, and public intellectuals were imprisoned or held in detention in 2019, facing often brutal treatment and baseless charges. The Index includes novelists, poets, playwrights, songwriters, biographers, memoirists, essayists, bloggers, and genre writers. Nearly sixty percent were being held by just three countries: China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
“The Index spotlights governments’ nefarious will to suppress truth and control the public mind by silencing writers who dare challenge authority or portray social and political alternatives that rulers reject or fear,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “Many of these writers use the imagination to pierce ideological orthodoxies, give voice to suppressed populations, and rally readers to think and act in new ways. This is what makes great writing potent, but also threatening. Rather than treasuring literary icons, too many regimes regard esteemed independent-minded writers as a menace to the brittle state, and seek to prevent words, stories and ideas from chipping away their iron control.”
China tops the Freedom to Write Index, having held at least 73 writers and public intellectuals in prison or detention for their writing in 2019. The new PEN America analysis, drawing on sources including the extensive casework of PEN International, finds that most often, China uses the excuse of national security and “subversion of state power” to imprison writers. In the first few months of 2020, writers, citizen journalists, and activists in China have been detained by authorities as part of a government campaign to control both the domestic and international narratives on the COVID-19 pandemic. Rounding out the top three, Saudi Arabia held thirty-eight writers and intellectuals in detention or prison last year, and Turkey held thirty.
“Speaking out on behalf of individual writers at risk around the world has long been the bedrock of PEN America’s advocacy work,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression at risk programs. “When writers are in jail, they know that the PEN global network will not let them be forgotten. We hope that this report with names and personal stories will help raise the profile of these writers, mobilizing journalists, legislators, human rights advocates, and political leaders to protest their unjust detention. The numbers in this Index are, of course, far too high, but we also know that advocacy to free those unjustly behind bars does work. In this moment, when truth is vulnerable, and when the world faces a time of reckoning in which a new future waits to be written, it is imperative that we defend the freedom to write, and work to free those who remain behind bars for daring to exercise that power.”
The PEN America Freedom to Write Index shows that in 2019, some thirty-four countries held writers, academics, and public intellectuals. The Index also found:
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region held one-hundred writers and intellectuals in detention or prison during 2019—making up forty-two percent of the 2019 Index—while countries in the Middle East and North Africa held thirty-one percent of the global count. Together, these two regions accounted for almost three-quarters of the cases in the 2019 Index. Countries in Europe and Central Asia held forty-one imprisoned/detained writers, or seventeen percent of the 2019 Index.
Of the 238 writers and intellectuals in the 2019 Freedom to Write Index, over half were prosecuted under laws concerned with national security. All thirty of the writers and intellectuals in the Index detained or imprisoned in Turkey face national security charges. In China, “national security” violations comprise over half of the seventy-three cases of writers and intellectuals in detention or prison, fifty-three percent.
At least fifty-three writers and intellectuals were held in detention on secret, unknown or undisclosed charges; this amounts to over a fifth of writers and intellectuals in the 2019 Index, and is particularly prevalent in Saudi Arabia.
Over two-thirds (sixty-nine percent) of individuals counted in the 2019 Index remain in state custody at the time of this report’s publication. Just under a third are out of state custody but continue to face ongoing legal battles or appeals of convictions; probationary restrictions on work, travel, and local movement; and/or harassment from state and non-state actors.
The report also reveals patterns in terms of what motivates governments to target writers. The drive to suppress ethnic identities and nationalism puts individuals writing in or advocating for ethno-linguistic minority languages under heightened threat, including in the context of crackdowns on Uyghur culture and language in China and Kurdish in Iran and Turkey.
Countries like China and Russia are also attacking writers who seek to expose painful truths about their countries’ respective histories, challenging enforced storylines propagated to reinforce ruling regimes. PEN America also found that while most writers being detained are men, women comprised sixteen percent of the cases documented. Many were targeted directly for their writing and advocacy on women’s rights, particularly in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Alongside the Index, PEN America is launching a new, searchable database of Writers at Risk, containing details of each of the writers in our 2019 Index along with hundreds of other cases of writers, journalists, artists, and intellectuals under threat around the world. This database offers researchers, rights advocates, and the public a wealth of actionable evidence of ongoing global threats to free expression.
Words, smothered in the folds of the self,
Must be stirred awake,
Made to amble and watch
See if wings can bear aloft
The crippled limbs
And soar into the sky.
Like the first showers after the drought
To my parched ears, my own worlds,
Not any other’s, remain strange.
Like the marvel of the sky
Discovering its lost monsoon
I long to sprout on a soil
In the vibrations of a sonorous world.
Once again I yearn to learn the utterance
At school and on the commune,
From pupils and plebeians
I dream of seizing syllables
From each of history’s furrows.
Without this voicing peal
How will this silence,
Loaded for so long in the self,
Without this booming resonance
How will this scene,
Cryptic for so long in the eyes,
Once again I must learn to utter
In communing with and listening to
I must be tethered to the word and abide by it
What’s man’s legacy after betraying the word?
Nothing debases the word:
In the blazing furnaces of time
Under the plummeting hammer clangs,
This, as the fittest moment,
I go on forging expressions.
– P. Varavara Rao
Cases highlighted in the 2019 report include:
The poet and leftist intellectual P. Varavara Rao, writer and artist Arun Ferreira, and writer and scholar Vernon Gonsalves, who were all detained in India in August 2018 alongside a number of other activists in relation to their writing and work on behalf of minority and marginalized groups in India. Other writers have issued pleas for their release, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iranian writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, first arrested in 2014 and sentenced to six years in prison in 2015 on propaganda charges for an unpublished fictional story concerning the practice of stoning as a criminal punishment. Released in April 2019, when she had served over half her sentence, Iraee was rearrested in November 2019.
Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights activist who documented his work in a microblog and was detained in 2016 after he appeared in an article and short video feature published by The New York Times. He was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “separatism” in 2018, and remains behind bars.
Egyptian poet and songwriter Galal El-Behairy, who is serving a three-year sentence on charges of spreading false news and insulting the military, in relation to both his lyrics to the song “Balaha,” which criticized the state of the Egyptian economy and government corruption, and to his unreleased book of poetry. The filmmaker who worked on the videos for Balaha, Shady Habash, died in prison on May 2 at age 24.
Poet and blogger Ahmed Mansoor, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in the United Arab Emirates for criticizing the government on social media. The official charges against him include insulting the “status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols” and seeking to damage the UAE’s relationship with neighboring countries by publishing false reports and information on social media.
Yury Dmitriev, a Russian historian and head of the Karelia branch of the Russian human rights center, who has worked to uncover and document mass graves from the era of Stalinist purges.
Chimengül Awut, a Uyghur poet and editor at Kashgar Publishing House, was arrested in 2018, reportedly for editing the novel Golden Shoes by Uyghur writer Halide Isra’il. Authorities have since confirmed her editing as the reason for her detention, but explicit legal charges are undisclosed.
By highlighting the threats experienced by a broad range of writers, the Freedom to Write Index and database complement existing datasets that focus on journalists or scholars, helping paint a more holistic picture of attacks on freedom of expression globally, and shining a light on the impact when individual creative voices are silenced.
PEN America is deeply grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for its generous support of the Freedom to Write Index and Writers at Risk Database.
This post is compiled courtesy of PEN America, Wikipedia, and Poem Hunter
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
“There have been so many days that we shared the same stages, platforms with you, our intellectual and artist friends. With those we couldn’t share the same stage, we had the honor of making art for a more fair and livable world. We have also experienced the oppression of the dominant powers who are fed by people’s remaining ignorant and unorganized . . . ” excerpt from İbrahim Gökçek’s letter of April 30.
We join with PEN America and other organizations that support free speech and freedom of artistic expression in our relief to learn that Turkish musician İbrahim Gökçek, a member of the music collective Grup Yorum, suspended his hunger strike as of Wednesday. Mr.Gökçek is receiving medical treatment. This news comes a day after it was announced that his health had reached a crisis point. İbrahim Gökçek started his hunger strike 323 days ago to protest his imprisonment and that of eight other band members in 2019.
Gökçek decided to suspend his hunger strike after Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and a group of lawmakers vouched for Grup Yorum and declared they would fight for the release of the imprisoned band members. Gökçek had turned his hunger strike into a “death fast”—intending to pursue the strike until his own death—in January. Released February 24 because of his health condition, he and fellow group member Helin Bölek were hospitalized against their wishes on March 11. Helin Bölek died April 3. Weeks later, on April 24, Mustafa Koçak, not a member of the band but also unjustly imprisoned, died after a 297-day hunger strike. Gökçek had continued his hunger strike, calling for the release of all band members, a fair trial, the right to hold concerts again, and the cessation of raids on their cultural center.
“We are relieved to hear İbrahim Gökçek’s decision to break his death fast. But he and other Grup Yorum members should not have to resort to a hunger strike in the first place to be able to share their music, and the Turkish authorities’ grievous attempts to silence their voices is abominable,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Grup Yorum members have continued to experience repression and harassment at the hands of the Turkish government for over three decades, including arrest, reports of abuse against detained members, banned concerts, and even the detention of their audience members. Their struggle is not over yet. Band members, including Gökçek’s wife Sultan, remain imprisoned, and the government still has not allowed the band to hold a concert. We condemn these ongoing attacks on free expression by the Turkish government, both against Grup Yorum members as well as any artist, writer, or activist who dares to speak out against injustice. Artists should be allowed to live and work without fear, and they should not have to deprive themselves of their life and wellbeing in order to do so.”
In an open letter Mr. Gökçek calls for the release of all members of Grup Yorum, decries the “lies and demagoguery” about the Group, and calls for support from other artists and intellectuals for his demands and that of all Grup Yorum.