Two Poems by Mbizo Chirasha. . . and your next Wednesday Writing Prompt

Sandstone rock formations typical of Mapungubwe National Park courtesy of Laura SA under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

The Kingdom of Mapungubwe (or Maphungubgwe) (c.1075–1220) was a medieval state in Southern Africa, the first stage in a development that would culminate in the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century.



This week’s prompt is graciously hosted by Zimbabwean poet, Mbizo Chirasha. 

MAPUNGUBWE

Land of baobab, land of eagles
Mapungubwe,sagging with ambition of nujoma, madikizela and sobukwe
Land of crocodiles and spiritual eagles- Mapungubwe
Rivers groaning with sweet tongues and sacred laughters
Mapungubwe – dream of stones
Bones and spirits quietly sleeping under the burden of peaceful rocks
Your songs , mapungubwe rhythm to bones of dead heroes and sleeping heroines
Mapungubwe ,crying tears of laughter, struggle and freedom ,
Mapungubwe!

Editor’s Note: nujoma is Sam Nujoma, a Namibian revolutionary, anti-apartheid activist and politician; Madikizela is Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a South-African anti-apardied activest, politician, and the second wife of Nelson Mandela; Sobukwe is Robert Sobukwe, South African political dissident, teacher, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress. 

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

SUNSET ACCOUSTICS

Sing Bamako, sing of spiders blighting freedom tomatoes
Sing of our pimped heritage
Somalia, the dramatic irony of Africa
Ethiopia, bring back the oil of our anthems and the clay of our identity
Ivory coast , your hands are hardened by hard years of madness
Cockroaches are walking over sleeping Zambezi
Gugulethu ,tired of scathy tongues and maruajuana
Egypt bulletins drenched by Arab spring urine
Abuja, how long are you going to walk in shadows?

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

Mbizo Chirasha

MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of The BeZine core team. He is a poet from Zimbabwe who is on the run. We have been coordinating in the search for safe harbor. In part I am doing this today to remind everyone that while we’ve made progress with funding, we still need to find a host for Mbizo, preferably Germany, but England or U.S. would work too.  Open to suggestion.  Connect with me if you are able to help, have leads, or have questions. You can read more about Mbizo and his story: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Poet Mbizo Chirasha, A Life on the Run, Interview.

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian politician and revolutionary coined the term “neocolonialism” in 1957.

WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

Mbizo’s prompt for us this week is “Neocolonialism” or the use in place of direct imperialism of capitalism, globalization, and cultural imperialism for the suppression of human rights by First World actors in Third World arenas, Africa, Asia, Latin America.  Or, short story: power and profits over people. What is the fallout? Poverty. Hunger. Violence. Failed states. Terrorism. Have we all lost our souls?  These are my thoughts as I ponder what I might write in response to Mbizo’s prompt.

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Anyone may take part Wednesday Writing Prompt, no matter the status of your career: novice, emerging or pro.  It’s about exercising the poetic muscle, showcasing your work, and getting to know other poets who might be new to you.

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Jamie DedesAbout /Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

“African Lament” . . . by Mbizo Chirasha, Zimbabwean poet on the run

Vodun altar in Abomey, Benin courtesy of  Dominik Schwarz under CC BY-SA 3.0

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela



In yesterday’s essay by Mbizo, we learned what life is like for him and for artist-activists who are exiled for so passionately loving their countries and humankind that they are left vulnerable for standing against abuses of power. Through Mbizo’s essay today, we learn exactly what are those abuses and what is the fallout from them.

Thanks to those of you who donated to the fundraiser for Mbizo sponsored by the International Human Rights Arts Festival. It was a successful. Mbizo was able to buy food and a second-hand computer on which to continue his work when he has access to electricity.  A few have provided letters of support to the organizations that fund writers-at-risk moving to safe harbor. We now have the attention and support of a couple of those organizations. Progress! We still seek a host for Mbizo in Germany or someplace in Northern Europe preferably, though England or U.S. would work as well. If you can help, please email me at bardogroup@gmail.com. Thank you! / J.D.


OF AFRICA AND ITS AFRICANNESS
-political press,websites,magazines
-African Union Press
-United Nations Human Rights Press
– Sky News, CNN , BBC Radio Magazine
-Open Society Foundation
-Africa Report
-Africa Confidential
-Africa Writes
-American Press
– British Press
Oxford University Press

Harvard political press

Standard Zimbabwe

Essay Contest about Africa

International Essay Contest African Politics

EU-Delegation Press

SADC
-International Human Rights News/sites
-Freedom of expression websites
– A TRUE ACTIVIST
-AFRICAN ACTIVISM Journals

When chickens sprout claws and chase the eagle up the misty mountain, the corner has turned the road and normal is redefined. Shouted whispers armed with lethal prayers are  unleashed at the naked torso of a man, whose crime is spotting the looters of the lone old lady’s granary, leaving her myriad orphaned grandchildren with emptiness for dinner. Her acidic inner tears cough curses behind cupped hands as she coaxes the dying brood to rest in peace. What is stolen, is then sent to the market for the moneyed to fill their carts and celebrate the independence of a nation.

An itchiness wraps the land with a grandiose malady of anxiety and paranoia for the eyes of state hoots everywhere assessing the hearts of the masses for disloyalty. The music of the land has turned to a one liner in praise of a uniformed gravestone dressed in military fatigues. Even empty farts of the quarreling bowels must be timed to resonate with the loving tribute of the figure looming over the dry dreams of ruler ship. What a time of it the
dwellers of this land have. Daily they’re served with weighty slogans in praise of structures bent by the wind of gluttony. They watch in resignation as every rural youth runs across the border searching for sense and direction to a full stomach.

Africa, the land of mystery and the bucket list of many a Foreigner is a case of rot trading insults with vulgarity. You have been set up by outside drama kings of commercial shenanigans and now you are setting yourselves up. The irony is not lost on your coarse manner in which you treat your fellow kin. Your hand is rough and your manner immoral. Your heart is darker than your night sky’s on a moonless night. You are drunk on the ideas imported from lands that know not to respect the Creator. Blaming the past is a past time and preoccupation akin to prescription intake of medication. The only news welcome to your elephant ears specially tuned to hear dissenting voices is a deal where you earn more than the economy of older nations. Largesse is your middle name and spares nothing and no one when it comes to grander.

Africa, your name is a shocking pronunciation in decent society. You rape your own without shame and invest where others provide security. You cripple every effort of social growth fearing your exposure by opened senses. You imprison the voices of truth and murder protesters. You sponsor battles and wars against unarmed masses. You bring your people to their knees through ignorance and denial. Your only class is repeated mantras of the rising star of “your Nation” even as the world looks on in horror.

Africa, when shall you awake to the fact that the truth has no price and that greed is a short holiday before time catches it with the proverbial fire, purges it and shames it, sending a story for history to chronicle? Africa, the land of giant mines, rich forests and magnificent wildlife, what other blessing do  you need when you mismanage the very resources others covet? The very brains you chase across borders for their truth are the very priests that would have presided over the senses of your  sickly mind, healing it enough for you to see the insanity of your ways.

Past the jungle of netting goons, your sons find welcome respite in soils away from their hearth. They brood over lost times and relationships even as they toil to stay alive. They survive. They thrive. And make names for themselves thousands of miles away from where their umbilical cord weeps with yearnings for the footsteps of lost sons.

As you spit nonstop at the news of their success, having shorn your followers of any and all sense of truth making them fear to tell anything close to reality, you continue your marauding verbosity that makes for sad entertainment at news hours in your own media which – if you cared to check – airs to emptiness in the homes of those you assume are your faithful’s.

A dictator is a sick and wounded skunk whose stench is only accommodated by fellow skunks and vultures who thrive on the dead and dying. He loves his own stories and jokes and misses the well camouflaged yawns and embarrassed looks of those in
attendance. Then, there is the opposition politics. Lol!

Another lot of voices with eyes on what’s wrong but with no plan on how to make the wrong right. If they have, the chance is crippled by marred protests as they try their hand at contesting the tick on the tit at statehouse.

Theatre of the absurd is the daily show in most of our beloved states. Pockets lined with promissory notes at deals to be sealed upon succeeding in a coup or bought and botched elections, confusion is the ration to the nation each tribe pitted against the other in the quest of looting and not governance.

Which way for Africa really? Which way for its people who are pawned in their homes and on their streets by the lawlessness masquerading as law keepers? Which way for a people who know not which way the sun will rise tomorrow and whose tune shall be embraced?

Africa, the land of much is married to less that is lessening by the day. With leaderships whose allegiance is to self-first, then the sponsors of the seat which sit the leader, the land breeds continuously with a narrative that reads like a never-ending dirge. Africa, you lament at the bent of your story told by foreign mouths, but check the faces of those you gore on the heads with yet unpaid bullets for telling it as it is. Which angle does their mistreatment, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment without trial and even death under a ghastly cloud of mischief tell? How else can death from lack of medicines and hunger be told except as it it?

Militarizing social interactions where each is afraid of the next and the death of human camaraderie is told by the silent tongues and opaque staring eyes. And they tell much, those who suffer in silence. They tell about those who ride the nights under fire from your goons. They tell much of those who rely on bush treatment for their ills. They tell much those who follow you as you abuse their manhood for a morsel and stale beer leftovers from your high table. They tell much those who see your motorcade snaking around town with top of the range fuel guzzler while TB wracking lungs wheeze at the roadsides to cheer your dead soul on to your next mission of visionless leadership.

Africa, the land of diversity and resilient souls, when shall you learn to be your own men and stand for what is right even if it’s the neighbor playing truant with his kin. You have mirrored the world and come up with prefects capable of predicting treads of upcoming disasters. Why do you wait till the rapist is through the wreckage of life before arriving for talks armed with first aid bandage for the deep gushes of inflicted injuries? Are these fine institutions for window dressing to show the world you live in a modern bungalow or is there more? If there is more, what is it and where has it worked and what are the results for earning mileage and allowances besides the hefty salaries? Perhaps its job creation for the elderly and the relations of their sweethearts to loot from the wider continent under guise of Africanism.

One has to wonder why a distant figure takes human interest in a human who is thrown to the dogs by his own, for that is the fate of Africa with those either insane enough to stand to the truth, or foolish enough to dare it knowing the consequences.

Africa, the land of beautiful drumbeats and of majestic sunrises only rivalled by their sunsets. When shall you ever sit long enough to read the history of what brings you to where you are? Politics has no friendships but a whore serving for a moment for a fee.

Politicking has a price and when it involves you trading with the devil you must know he is worse than Shylock. He shall come calling. This time not for repayment but for your soul and soil. Africa, once upon a time when your eyes only knew the truth, a stranger came calling. He hoodwinked you, stole your wit and your children. Another has come calling. This one has a magic purse and rains on your every wish with a sly eye.

As you smile all the way to a numbered account and palatial homes far away from your beggary populace, remember this. The man you bludgeon for telling the truth is not the enemy, neither is he after you or your raw power. He is the hope of the land you are dispossessing. He is the voice of those you have silenced. And like all who are dead to truth, your day is well on its way. What shall your defense be when the deadness you have blanketed your people with wears off?

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

Mbizo Chirasha

MBIZO CHIRASHA is a recipient of PEN Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant (2017), Literary Arts Projects Curator, Writer in Residence, Blogs Publisher, Arts for Human Rights/Peace Activism Catalyst, Social Media Publicist and Internationally Anthologized Writer, 2017 African Partner of the International Human Rights Arts Festival Exiled in Africa Program in New York. 2017 Grantee of the EU- Horn of Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund. Resident Curator of 100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe, Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. He has published a collection of poetry, Good Morning President, and co-created another one Whispering Woes of Gangesand Zembezi with Indian poet Sweta Vikram.


Poetry Rocks the World!

Jamie DedesAbout /Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.



 

FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Welcome News of Imprisoned Swedish Publisher/Poet Gui Minhai’s Upcoming Collection “I Draw Blood on the Wall with My Finger”

Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

“We enthusiastically welcome the news of Gui Minhai’s forthcoming book of poetry, which will serve not only as a literary work but also as a reminder that Gui continues to be unjustly detained,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. 



Taipei Times and PEN America announced that Gui Mihai, Swedish publisher and poet, imprisoned in China since 2015 will have a collection of his poetry – purportedly smuggled from his cell – published next year. The volume is entitled I Draw Blood on the Wall with My Finger. It’s publication will coincide with Gui’s 56th birthday.

Gui Minhai has been in detention since Chinese state security agents kidnapped him from Thailand in October 2015. Gui is a member of the Causeway Bay Bookstore Five, a group of publishers and booksellers affiliated with Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Bookstore, all disappeared by Chinese state agents in late 2015.

Causeway Bay Bookstore in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; 3 January 2016

“We enthusiastically welcome the news of Gui Minhai’s forthcoming book of poetry, which will serve not only as a literary work but also as a reminder that Gui continues to be unjustly detained,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “Gui’s continued detention – more than four years after his abduction – serves as a representation of the Chinese government’s continued blatant disregard for human rights and international law. On the occasion of this announcement, we reiterate our call that Gui be immediately and unconditionally released, and allowed to rejoin his family.”

Numerous human rights and free expression groups – including PEN America – have continually decried Gui’s illegal detention. In October 2017, the conditions of Gui’s confinement were reportedly relaxed until January 2018, when Chinese state agents forcibly stopped him from traveling with Swedish diplomats for a medical examination in Beijing. Gui has reportedly exhibited symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a degenerative neurological disease, and PEN America remains concerned for his health.

PEN America previously concluded in a November 2016 report that the Chinese government’s disappearance of the Causeway Bay Bookstore Five, as well as the conditions of their detentions – including a series of forced “confessions” from the booksellers that numerous observers have concluded were obviously scripted by state agents – constituted “a wide range of human rights abuses.”

RELATED:

Editorial Note: This feature is complied courtesy of  PEN America, Taipei Times, The Washington Post, and Radio Free Asia.

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.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

PEN’S WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL 2019 WILL ADDRESS THE BLURRING BOUNDARY BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

Programming Highlights for 15th Anniversary Edition of United States’ Leading International Literary Festival Include Events with Bridgett M. Davis, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Rodrigo Fresán, Sue Halpern, Isabella Hammad, Mohammed Hanif, Sheila Heti, Christos Ikonomou, Shiori Ito, Marlon James, Édouard Louis, Ma Jian, Emiliano Monge, Scholastique Mukasonga, H.M. Naqvi, Joyce Carol Oates, Tommy Orange, George Packer, Inês Pedrosa, Philippe Petit, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Arundhati Roy, Sonia Sanchez, Elif Shafak, Dani Shapiro, Pajtim Statovci, Kara Swisher, Miriam Toews, Colm Tóibín, Tara Westover, Liao Yiwu, Shoshana Zuboff, Raúl Zurita, and many more …


PEN America presents the 2019 PEN World Voices Festival: Open Secrets (May 6-12), focusing on the dissolving boundary between the public and the private in the literary, cultural, social, and political realms.  A flowering of the genres of literary memoir and personal testimony has been accompanied by increased digital avenues for story-telling, revelation, and exposé before both designated and public audiences. Movements like #MeToo and continuing reports of abuse within religious organizations have demonstrated the political velocity of deeply personal revelations, surfacing suppressed experiences and forcing society-wide reckonings. Personal narratives and individual stories have become catalysts for social change.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution has enabled political micro-targeting and the leveraging of personal data in insidious ways that have the power to reshape attitudes, buying habits and even democratic decision-making.

In 60+ events in dozens of venues across New York City, the 15th anniversary edition of the festival will gather fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, thinkers, and activists to discuss what we withhold and what we reveal, and the opportunities and dangers inherent in the rapid reconfiguring of the public and the private.

Arundhati Roy (b. 1961)

Yesterday PEN America announced highlights of the 2019 PEN World Voices, including its keynote speaker, an author whose work as an artist and activist has had a profound global resonance—the 1997 Man Booker Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, My Seditious Heart). She will deliver this year’s Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, and will be joined in discussion by Siddhartha Deb (winner of the PEN/Open Book 2012 prize for The Beautiful and the Damned) on May 12.

Chip Rolley, Director of the PEN World Voices Festival and Senior Director of Literary Programs at PEN America, says “Presenting Arundhati Roy as the keynote speaker of this festival is nothing short of a dream come true for me. Throughout her illustrious writing career, encompassing fiction of arresting lyricism and essays of incisive urgency, Arundhati Roy has been one of the most valiant defenders of the rights of both the individual and the collective. She caps a week of events that confront our society’s fast-evolving approach to personal narrative, exposition, and exposé. Our participants include some of the most potent exemplars of how social norms governing gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality have been up-ended by the sheer force of personal stories entering the public sphere. The festival offers audiences a ringside seat in witnessing the power of narrative in changing the world.”

Susanne Nossel

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel says, “The voluntary surrender of privacy in return for convenience, access, and human connection is fast reshaping expectations of what remains personal. As digital technologies steamroll forward, we aim through this Festival to hit the pause button to examine why these borders are being redrawn and how writers, creators, thinkers, and individuals can influence what aspects of our lives remain truly our own as well as how to shape narratives once they enter the public sphere.”

PEN America President Jennifer Egan says, “PEN World Voices offers an annual occasion for writers, artists, and intellectuals to pool resources for a weeklong exchange of creativity and ideas. In our era of global and national discord, such collaboration is essential—both as a refuge and a way forward.  We hope that this year’s exceptional line-up, applied to a timely theme, will prove revelatory for participants and audience alike.”

Amidst a surge in new platforms of communication, people have harnessed the mobilizing power of personal stories; exciting new voices have emerged and established authors have been emboldened to explore new territory. In It Happened to Me (May 11), Édouard Louis(Who Killed My Father), Scholastique Mukasonga (The Barefoot Woman), Pajtim Statovci(Crossing: A Novel), Grace Talusan (The Body Papers), journalist and filmmaker Shiori Ito(Black Box), and poets Romeo Oriogun and Paul Tran—all of whom have, in their work, embraced the often-liberating effect of disclosure—will present an evening of powerful testimony. On May 10, Shiori Ito, poet Gerður Kristný (Bloodhoof), Miriam Toews (Women Talking), Anne Summers (Unfettered and Alive: A Memoir), and journalist Rachel Louise Snyder(No Visible Bruises) will speak of why we need to bring domestic violence into the public realm, and how they’ve done this in their own writings, in Intimate Terrorism. In Secrets and Lives,memoirist Dani Shapiro (Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love) and Bridgett M. Davis (The World According to Fannie Davis) will share the secrets that defined their families (May 12).

Open Secrets will also include those who have boldly undertaken the dangerous—and monumentally important—work of exposing the abuses they themselves have experienced at the hands of governments. Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square Protests, the festival will feature Rise Up: Tiananmen’s Legacy of Freedom and Democracy (May 7), a celebration of the dauntless courage and youthful defiance that challenged China’s authoritarian establishment, spotlighting and honoring those who continue to fight for freedom around the world today. Participants will include Ma Jian, Tiananmen Square student protest leaders Zhou Fengsuo, Wang Dan, and Fang Zheng, poet, novelist, musician, and documentarian Liao Yiwu, musician Martha Redbone, and more. In a return of a bravura event from last Festival, Ma Jian, Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, Egyptian PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award recipient Ahmed Naji (Using Life), author and PEN International President Jennifer Clement (Gun Love), Ukrainian poet Marianna Kiyanovska (The Voices of Babyn Yar), and Russian poet Kirill Medvedev (It’s No Good: poems/essays/actions) will participate in this year’s Cry, the Beloved Country, offering eloquent accounts of the struggles in their respective countries, in their original languages with simultaneous translation on screen (May 9).

After Raúl Zurita’s imprisonment by the Pinochet regime in 1973, the legendary poet of resistance chronicled atrocities committed against the Chilean people, including attacks on their language; on May 8, Zurita will read his poetry, and join poet Norma Cole and poet/translator William Rowe in conversation. On May 9, in Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining, author/activist Darnell L. Moore (No Ashes in the Fire); writer, poet, and playwright Timothy DuWhite; interdisciplinary artist, performer and writer Ni’ja Whitson, and filmmaker and writer Michelle Parkerson will pay homage to Essex Hemphill, the incisively political poet who gave voice to the experiences of black gay men in America during the 1980s and 1990s.

Digital technology has the potential to democratize global politics, empower activists, and facilitate free speech, but recent events have also shown us how technology can also exert a sinister influence on democratic practices. In Orwell’s China (May 8), exiled Chinese-born novelist and dissident Ma Jian (China Dream) and journalist Leta Hong Fincher (Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China) will speak with Chip Rolley, addressing the heightening surveillance culture, police state, and attacks on feminism in China. Digital technology has also, of course, abruptly reshaped our personal lives; featuring Niviaq Korneliussen (Last Night in Nuuk) and Gabriela Wiener (Sexographies), Love in the Time of Tinder will look at how literature depicts the tumultuous digitized terrain of modern love and sexuality (May 7).

Highlights of the 2019 PEN World Voices lineup of challenging and enlightening contemporary writing include recent examples of some of literary fiction’s richest offerings from the U.S. and abroad. In Women Uninterrupted, Elif Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve), Inês Pedrosa (In Your Hands), and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and PEN America President Jennifer Egan(Manhattan Beach) will speak about writing unforgettable fictional female characters (May 11). Acclaimed Latin American authors Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Severina) and Rodrigo Fresán (The Invented Part) will discuss their work in The Library of Borges (May 7). Resonances—moderated by PEN World Voices co-founder Esther Allen—will feature Niviaq Korneliussen, Bridgett M. Davis (The World According to Fannie Davis), Gabrielle Bell (Everything Is Flammable), and Willivaldo Delgadillo reading passages from their own works as well as writing by authors who influenced them (May 9).

A festival that transcends genres and media, PEN World Voices will feature living legend Philippe Petit (On the High Wire)—who famously walked between the roofs of the Twin Towers in 1974; he has, in the words of Mikhail Baryshnikov, achieved “a precise balance of chaos and creativity,” and will share what it takes to do this with fellow artist Elizabeth Streb in Artists of the Air (May 7). George Packer (The Atlantic, former New Yorker staff writer) has written Our Man, a compelling biography of Richard Holbrooke, arguably the last great American diplomat, which he will discuss with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel in A Very American Diplomat(May 7). On May 10, PEN World Voices will feature the New York premiere screening of Kirill Serebrennikov’s film Leto, following Kino co-founding singer-songwriter Viktor Tsoi on his early journey from underground experimentation towards Soviet Union-wide stardom. With the film touching on Soviet censorship in the 1980s, and Serebrennikov currently under house arrest in Russia, the event will, on multiple levels, serve as a tribute to uninhibited creativity in the face of institutional oppression. In Countering Colonialism: A Queer Ritual of Healing, PEN World Voices turns toward yet another expressive form: queer Nicaraguan performance artist Elyla Sinverguenza will present their new work, Saint Peter Goose/Duck Pulling, reimagining a violent hyper-masculine ritual as a healing act (May 11).

On May 8, Soledad Castillo and Gabriel Méndez—who, through the oral history initiative Voice of Witness, shared their stories of border crossing to escape manifold horrors at home—will speak with the platform’s co-founder, acclaimed author Dave Eggers (The Parade), and the organization’s executive director Mimi Lok, in My Story, My Journey, My Freedom.

PEN World Voices’ Next Generation Now series of events for children and families this year includes the fun and fabulous Drag Queen Story Hour (ages 3-8, May 11) featuring Miz Jade, as well as the creative workshop Spellbound Theatre: Today I Will Be Fierce! (for children up to age 8, May 11), featuring story time with Nidhi Chanani (illustrator of I Will Be Fierce!).

PEN America will announce additional programming—featuring Sue Halpern, Isabella Hammad, Mohammed Hanif, Sheila Heti, Christos Ikonomou, Marlon James, Emiliano Monge, H.M. Naqvi, Joyce Carol Oates, Tommy Orange, Sonia Sanchez, Kara Swisher, Colm Tóibín, Tara Westover, Shoshana Zuboff, and many more—as the Festival approaches.

Photo credits: post header photo, ©Jamie Dedes; Arundhati Roy courtesy of Augustus Binu under CC BY-SA 3.0 license; Susanne Nossel in 2014 courtesy of PEN American Center

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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. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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