Creative Activist Ai Weiwei to receive award at Pen America 2018 Litfest Gala

Ai Weiwei (2017) courtesy of Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

“When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.” Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, China)

PEN American announced this weekend that artist Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei’s blog,Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009) will receive the Artistic Expression Award at the organization’s 2018 LitFest Gala in Los Angeles. Ai is renowned for making bold aesthetic statements that expose fault lines, unmask hypocrisies, and unleash empathy on a global scale. This honor comes in the wake of the razing of Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio, including the destruction of several artworks, purportedly to make way for gentrification.

Ai Weiwei – Forever, 2018, Artz Pedregal, Mexico City courtesy of Keizers under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Ai Weiwei’s inventive, iconic, and utterly original lens on contemporary life both within and outside China have bridged the worlds of art and activism, awakening millions to the plight of refugees, government corruption, and human suffering. His dramatic, insistent, and impossible-to-forget films, artworks, and installations have jolted the art world, inspired millions, and stoked fear in the minds of governments alert to the power of creativity to spark social change,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.

“Ai Weiwei has, for decades, endured the personal price of harassment, intimidation, and constraints on his freedom in his determination to speak out and be a voice for those who cannot. Coming without warning, the demolition of his studio last weekend was a vivid reminder of the arbitrary and unpredictable exercise of power that Ai’s work has consistently exposed and contested. PEN America has been proud to stand with Ai Weiwei in his courageous posture of artistic defiance, and is honored to present him with our Artistic Expression Award this year.”

From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai Weiwei uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values.

Recent exhibitions include: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with the Public Art Fund in New York City; Ai Weiwei on Porcelain at the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul; Maybe, Maybe Not at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; and Ai Weiwei. Libero at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. In the fall of 2018, Ai Weiwei will open three major exhibitions in Los Angeles.

Ai currently resides and works in Berlin. He is the current Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Ai’s first feature-length documentary, Human Flow, premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival in competition.


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. 






Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”

MIXTURE, a poem and art by Sonja Benskin Mesher

2013-02-26-11-31-55good mix, bit of this,
bit of that, healthy

bit of quiet, new friends,
old friends, young in years.

i tried that. it mostly works.

i usually stop, let others,
move around. risk no life.

it is a better road now.

© Sonja Benskin Mesher

SONJA BENSKIN MESHER, RCA UA submitted this poem and associated artwork in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Tears Into Light.

sonjabenskinmesher2011Sonja is a British artist and writer.  She says about her visual art that  “The work is my statement.  I have worked full time as a visual artist since 1999, and have spent those years exploring ways to communicate thoughts and concerns with my paintings and drawings. Its not all you see on the surface, it goes deeper than that. The work goes back touched and collected. My present surroundings, here in Wales, and that of Cornwall where I spend much of my time, inform the work, and inspire the subject matter. Then with the work I remember, and try to make sense of it all.”

Sonja also designed the covers for two poetry collections that were featured in Reuben Woolley Is Not A Silent Poet.

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Your may read more of Sonjia’s poetry and view her artwork – I love her dancing mouse – at this sites:

© 2017 poem, artwork and photograph, Sonja Benskin Mesher, All rights reserved

Also in response to last week’s prompt, Clare attached the link to her poem. She said, “It doesn’t exactly fit your prompt, Jamie, but I just wrote this wee poem this morning, and then read your post, and it kind of fits…”  It’s a lovely poem and her site, Nest of Mist,  is charming and thoughtful. Bravo, Clare!

51qqbcpwhul-_sx332_bo1204203200_The WordPlay shop offers a selection of books and tools especially selected for poets and writers.  Sales from the shop go to support the maintenance of this site.  Suggested reading this week – a read for these times – is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

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Off-subject but compelled to post …The Many Moods of Grandkitty

Gypsy Rose Grandkitty
Gypsy Rose Grandkitty

Gretchen Del Rio is a terrific California artist who finds her inspiration in nature and animals. Some of you will have noticed that thanks to Gretchen’s generosity, I sometimes use her work to illustrate my poems. Gretchen’s Native American spirit animals are the finest and I am enamoured of them.

“The paintings are from my heart and I always fall in love with the subject. I believe that we are all connected and, if an image touches you, it is because we all have the same heart even though our paths may be different.” Gretchen Del Rio

Recently Gretchen painted my grandkitty, Gypsy, in three of her many moods. Some of you know Gypsy from The Cat’s Meow. Though she hasn’t blogged for a while, her posts are still up for everyone to enjoy. She may  get back to blogging one of these days; but currently her plate is full to brimming while she organizes the CitySon Philosopher and the Girl from New Mexico in their new house in a different city. She takes her familial obligations seriously.

Gypsy – like most cats – is at home with writers. She expresses her critical opinion by sleeping on good manuscripts and coughing up furr balls on bad ones. In fine feline tradition, she likes to play the muse posing variously as lap blanket, printer cozy, keyboard duster, desk trasher and in much the same spirit apparently as Ray Bradbury’s cat  – a paper weight.

“I have my favorite cat, who is my paperweight, on my desk while I am writing.” Ray Bradbury

Here is Gypsy through Gretchen Del Rio’s eyes:

'GYPSY' 3 300 E

'GYPSY' 2 300 E'GYPSY' 1 300 E

© 2013, original watercolor paintings, Gretchen Del Rio, Gretchen Del

© Gypsy photograph, Karen Fayeth, Oh Fair New Mexico

This is post was pre-scheduled.