VIVIENNE, THE POET (Part 1): The Song of Joy and Pain (from my perspective), by poet Mike Stone

                      You deem me rude
To come and pierce your solitude. I know
More than you dream, how precious are your thoughts,
Guarded and unperceived. You see, dear heart,
We are but one. You are the child I was,
I am the poet grown that you will be.
Vivienne Stone, excerpt from Related (July 13, 1948)

“I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.” Mike Stone 

Editor’s Note: The photographs here belong to Mike and his family.  Please be respectful.  Note also that Mike’s mom changed the spelling of her name from Vivian to Vivienne, hence the discrepancy between the narrative and the name on the book and the header photograph. / J.D.

These are the dry facts of my life relating to my mother and her hand-written leather-bound book of poetry, The Song of Joy and Pain. The facts form a triangle in my mind: my father, my mother, and my stepmother.

My father and mother eloped and got married young. Dad was nineteen. Mom was eighteen. I was born nine months and twelve days later. My sister, Victoria, was born four-and-a-half years after me.

At this point, I must state that I have no factual memories of my mother prior to the age of thirteen. I have memories. They just aren’t factual; that is, whatever I might have remembered from personal experience had been supplanted by a collage of other people’s narratives and the few physical documents I happened to come across.

It has been said that we see only what we expect to see. I believe that the memories that we’ve experienced directly are replaced by parts of narratives that are associated with those experiences. Those narratives come to us from the people we trust.

Victoria and Mike
Victoria and Mike

Dad divorced Mom when I was seven years old. Victoria was three. This was when the narratives started. Dad’s narrative went like this: Mom was an unfit mother. She was hysterical. She beat me with a pancake turner. This was why he divorced her and sued for custody of my sister and me. She wrote “poetry” (deprecatingly said) and held poetry “salons” in which she would sit on the floor in a circle of “poetry” admirers. Dad hated these salons.

I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.

Dad remarried two years later. I was encouraged to call my stepmother “Mom”, although it was a few months before I felt able to do so. A new narrative began: our mother had never loved us. After a while, after calling my stepmother “Mom”, I began referring to my birthmother as “my biological mother” to avoid confusion when discussing her. As time went on, I just called my birthmother by her first name, “Vivian”.

Vivian remarried a year or so after the divorce. Her husband (Irv) was a psychiatrist. They visited my sister and me twice a year. Eventually, Irv was called up to the Army and they were transferred to Panama for three years. A few months before they were to be rotated Stateside, they adopted two infants, Lisa and Chris.

Three days before they were to fly back home, Vivian was killed in a freak pedestrian accident. I was fourteen when we received a letter informing us of her death.

Six years ago (2014), Lisa contacted my sister and me on Facebook. Although she was only an infant when Vivian was killed and had no direct memories of her, she had heard many stories about Vivian from Irv and also from friends of the family in Panama and America who knew Vivian and knew her history with my father, my sister, and me. The narratives Lisa had heard contradicted the narratives on which I was raised: Vivian had loved my sister and me very much. Dad’s family had been against the marriage and had forced my father to divorce Vivian or he would not receive any financial support from them. Vivian was unwilling to give up custody of us. Dad’s parents had Vivian committed to an insane asylum until she agreed to sign the divorce papers.

Lisa told my sister and me that Irv had sent her two hand-written leather-bound books of Vivian’s poetry, which were word-for-word copies of each other. Lisa had read Vivian’s poetry and it was clear to her from Vivian’s poems how much she had loved us.

Narratives against narratives. The ground shook under my feet. My childhood memories crashed and lay in ruins. I couldn’t imagine any possible motive for Lisa to lie about Vivian’s past, but I could imagine a few possible motives for my father and stepmother to lie to us.

Dad passed away in 2010. By 2017 our stepmother suffered from vascular dementia. We placed her in a 24/7 nursing care facility. She passed away in October 2019.

Vivienne Stone’s collection is available through Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited

How did I come into possession of my mother’s poetry collection?
Lisa had told my sister and me that she would be happy to give us one of the hand-written copies of our mother’s poetry. She sent the book to Victoria since Lisa lived in New York state and Victoria lived in Connecticut. I live in Israel. We didn’t trust the international postal carriers to get such a precious book to me in Israel, so the next time I went to Columbus Ohio to visit our stepmother in 2018, Victoria mailed the book to my cousin in Columbus who handed it to me when I arrived.

What did I think of her poems?
I love poetry, both the writing and reading of poetry; however, I’m very demanding of the poets and poetry that I read. Poets must be authentic in their expression. They must be brilliant. Poems must leap with originality. They must surprise me. I have scant patience for less-than-brilliant poets. My only rule in writing is that I write what I’d like to read.

Before I opened our mother’s book of poetry, I trembled in fear of what I was about to read. I was afraid that I would be disappointed, that her poetry would be just “poetry”, as Dad had described in deprecation.

I opened her book and read the first poem and then the next, and the next. Her poetry exceeded my wildest expectations. Her poems were beautiful; they were brilliant; and they were authentic. She wrote poems about everything and everyone around her, and how she felt about them. She wrote about how she loved my father as only a poet can love. She wrote of the betrayal she felt when Dad told her he was divorcing her. She wrote of the despair and loneliness she felt. She wrote about her thoughts of suicide.

How did I feel about her poems?
I believed every word my mother wrote. A poet who is authentic does not lie. If you must lie in a poem you write, then what is the point of writing the poem? The authentic poet needs to reveal his soul. Perhaps that is the difference between a poet and a wordsmith. A wordsmith connects one word to another, considering rhyme and meter, showing off his or her knowledge and vocabulary. A poet’s soul needs to peek out of his or her poetry.

Therefore, the truth about our mother and us cracked and crumbled the narratives of my childhood memories. I feel freed of my shackles. I feel empty though. I know my childhood memories are false, but her poems cannot replace my memories because I have no memories to replace.

I transcribed our mother’s poetry into digital form, using a script font reminiscent of her handwriting. There were fifty-four poems in all. I added a foreword and, at the end, poems that I had written about her, to her. It was a labor of love for me.

How did I feel?
I felt that my father had thrown away a goddess worth more than all the wealth his family had threatened to withhold from him. He should have stood up to his parents and protected his wife who had loved him with the purest of innocence. That is what I would have done if I had been in his shoes. I felt that my father had lied to us, to me, because he was ashamed of what he had done. I felt that our stepmother had lied to us because she had wanted us to love her instead of our mother.

In what ways did her poetry change me?
Her poetry made me return to my childhood to love and cherish her, retrospectively. In doing so, I’ve grown to love the little boy that I was once. Now, I am seventy-three years old. It’s about time.

© 2020, Mike Stone


MIKE STONE (Uncollected Works) is a regular participant in The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt. We are always delighted with the opportunity to read  and share his work.  Mike was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947 and was graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. He served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s been writing poetry since he was a student at OSU and supports his writing habit by working as a computer networking security consultant. He moved to Israel in 1978 and lives in Raanana. He is married and has three sons and seven grandchildren. Mike’s Amazon Page is HERE. His work is recommended without reservation.

PEN America International Festival Convenes Writers of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Journalism; Featured poets include Danez Smith and Jamila Woods

Poet Danez Smith reading at Split This Rock 2018, Washington, D.C. courtesy of Slowking4 under GFDL 1.2

On Wednesday, May 4, Danez Smith perform for this Festival from their latest poetry collection, Homie, sharing their perspectives on seeking joy, intimacy, acceptance and safety from discriminatory violence in America. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective, an assemblage of poets and performers of color with a mission to amplify spoken word artists who explore race, religion, gender, queerness, hip-hop culture, and radical truth-telling in their art. After the performance they will talk about the potential of their art to celebrate race, the body, and identity politics.

Among the other Festival poets are: Mahogany L. Browne, Roya Marsh, Porsha Olayiwola, Jamilia Woods, Abdulla Pashew, Oksana Zabuzhko, Ben Okri, and Tatiana Voltskaya.

PEN America shares the highlights of its 16th Edition of the United States’ Leading International Literary Festival, bookended by an opening night event featuring Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, and Jia Tolentino in Conversation with Rebecca Traister and a closing performance by Jon Batiste, Suleika Jaouad, Zadie Smith and Tara Westover

Acclaimed authors, writers and poets Including Andrés Barba, Ishmael Beah, Mahogany L. Browne, Lydia Davis, Amitav Ghosh, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Hunter Harris,  Jeremy O. Harris, Yuri Herrera, Jill Lepore, Sara Mesa, Lynn Nottage, Ben Okri, Elif Shafak, Jenny Slate, Danez Smith, Brandon Taylor, David Treuer, Jeanette Winterson, Jamila Woods, and other participants in venues around New York.

PEN America presents the 2020 PEN World Voices Festival: These Truths, celebrating literature’s deep illumination of cultural, historical, political, and emotional truths in a complex moment when “truth” is destabilized by the constant undermining of a common set of facts, “objective” histories are being interrogated and upended, and radical candor about lived experiences is fueling powerful social movements. This festival brings together fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, thinkers, and activists for an array of conversations, interviews, readings, and musical performances on this infinitely prismatic subject.

Chip Rolley, Director of the PEN World Voices Festival and Senior Director of Literary Programs at PEN America, describes arriving at this year’s theme: “The crisis in truth in the American political sphere and a hallowed phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence were the jumping-off points for a festival that ultimately celebrates truth-telling on a wide range of topics and in myriad forms. We urgently need to hear the deeper truths afforded by literary fiction and by poetry, for literature to engage with contested histories and memory, and for journalists, historians and other non-fiction writers to present the world as it really is, to contest the fabrications served to us on an almost daily basis.”

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel says, “At a moment when we can rely on government officials neither to tell nor to face the truth, citizens must step into the breach. Truth-tellers such as investigative journalists, the courageous women behind the #MeToo movement, and the risk-everything whistleblowers attesting to government wrongdoing are driving the discourse while facing unrelenting attacks. Against this norm-defying backdrop, PEN America is proud to convene some of the world’s most transformative writers and thinkers in a show of force on behalf of complexity, facts, and veracity.”

Jamila Wood’s Album Cover for Legacy! Legacy!

On May 4th, soul-singer, song-writer, poet and recording artist behind LEGACY! LEGACY!, an album that draws inspiration from James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, and other great authors, Jamila Woodswill will present at this Festival. Jamila’s work focuses on themes of Black ancestry, Black feminism, and Black identity, with recurring emphases on self-love and the City of Chicago. After her performance at the Festival, she will talk about the potential of art to celebrate race, the body, and identity politics, offering a message of self-love and healing justice.

The 2020 PEN World Voices Festival opens May 4 with three compelling truth-tellers—Margaret Atwood, Roxane Gay, and Jia Tolentino—speaking with Rebecca Traister at The Town Hall about how women’s lives have been shaped by historical forces, religious and political dogma, today’s resurgent misogyny, and societal and personal gaslighting, that most cunning undermining of lived reality.

On May 6 at the Great Hall at Cooper Union, Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project*, delivers the festival’s annual keynote address, the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, given in recent years by Arundhati Roy (2019) and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (2018). Hannah-Jones discusses her journalistic mission to reframe how we understand our nation, the legacy of slavery, and the unparalleled role Black people have played in U.S. democracy.

Public Domain

*The 1619 Project is an ongoing project developed by The New York Times Magazine in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. It is an interactive project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for The New York Times, with contributions by the paper’s writers, including essays on the history of different aspects of contemporary American life which the authors believe have “roots in slavery and its aftermath.” It also includes poems, short fiction, and a photo essay.[2] Originally conceived of as a special issue for August 20, 2019, it was soon turned into a full-fledged project, including a special broadsheet section in the newspaper, live events, and a multi-episode podcast series.

The New York Times has said that the contributions were deeply researched, and arguments verified by a team of fact-checkers in consultation with historians. Civil War historians Gordon S. Wood, James M. McPherson and Richard Carwardine are among many who have criticized the 1619 Project, stating that the project has put forward misleading and historically inaccurate claims.

Like Hannah-Jones, bestselling author David Treuer (The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee) offers a powerful counter-narrative to a monolithic history—in this case, rebutting conventional wisdom about Native American experience (May 5 at Brooklyn Historical Society). In an event entitled The Last Archive, on May 7 at Symphony Space, celebrated historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore (These Truths: A History of the United States) interrogates a question at the heart of this year’s festival: How do we find the truth in the age of Google and “alternative” facts? Amitav Ghosh, Terry Tempest Williams, Maja Lunde, and Emily Raboteaucome together May 9 at the AIA Center for Architecture to consider the role of the writer in a society that denies science and the everyday realities of extreme weather amidst impending apocalypse.

Other events underscore the truth-telling potential of the creative act. On May 6 at the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn, Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri discusses his latest book, The Freedom Artist, which imagines a society where the disappearance of books and diminishment of literacy have led to the creation of a dystopia devoid of truth. On the heels of her Netflix comedy special Stage Fright, Jenny Slate will speak with Vulture writer Hunter Harris about her unclassifiable, keenly personal book Little Weirds (May 6 at the New School). On May 7 at Center for Fiction, Turkish-British writer-activist Elif Shafak and literary critic and Literary Hub Executive Editor John Freeman explore how words themselves have been used to misrepresent and distort reality, and how they can be reclaimed. Also on May 7, at Symphony Space, playwrights Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play, Daddy, and Black Exhibition) and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage (Sweat, Ruined, and Intimate Apparel) discuss their impulse to expose uncomfortable, often hidden truths about race, class, and sexuality in American society.

PEN America President Jennifer Egan says, “A festival of writers, artists, and intellectuals affords a tonic opportunity to explore pressing topics from creative and unexpected angles. The offerings in “These Truths” include an evening melding dystopian fiction and West African music; a Russian queer poetry reading; and a cross-generational discussion between prominent Mexican novelists about how art can reclaim and subvert cultural stereotypes—to name just a smattering of auspicious events.”

You can visit the PEN AMERICA WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL WEBSITE for complete details and to purchase tickets. 

This post is courtesy of Wikipedia, PEN America, Amazon, and The 1612 Project, 

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization 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:

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!


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

PEN America Announces Honorary and Career-Achievement Literary Awards; Rigoberto González – PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry

Courtesy of Francisco Delgado, Unsplash

The PEN America Literary Awards have, since their founding in 1963, brought together award-winning writers, editors, translators, and critics in dynamic and diverse panels of judges that determine the given year’s most resonant literature. Over the decades, the PEN America Literary Awards have expanded across genres, celebrating a wide range of writing and recognizing writers at every stage of their careers.

Tom Stoppard  courtesy of ru:Участник:KDeltaE under CC BY-SA 3.0

PEN America announced its major career achievement honors to be presented at the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards. Academy Award and four-time Tony Award winner Tom Stoppard will receive the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award for Leopoldstadt, a work of epic scale and deep personal resonance that Stoppard has said may be his final play. Leopoldstadt, set in the old Jewish quarter of Vienna, where Jews fled persecution at the turn of the 19th century, makes its world premiere on London’s West End this week, at a time when anti-Semitism is surging throughout Europe and the U.S.

The PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, honoring an author of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and/or drama with $50,000, will be given to M. NourbeSe Philip for writing that has, for four decades, merged vital formal experimentation and considerations of race, gender, colonialism, and African Diasporic identity. Playwright Tanya Barfield, critically lauded for works including The Call, Bright Half Life, and Blue Door, will accept the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award. Rigoberto González—poet, novelist, memoirist, critic, professor, and vocal champion of Latinx poets—will be honored with the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. The awards will be among those presented March 2 at The Town Hall, the largest venue in the history of the PEN America Literary Awards, in a ceremony hosted by Late Night host, comedian, and “influential recommender of books” (The New York Times) Seth Meyers.

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, PEN America Director of Literary Programs, said, “Fostering and celebrating international literature is central to the mission of the PEN America Literary Awards; we seek to champion original and promising writers of the global community and promote their work to an American audience. This year, we are incredibly proud to honor such urgent and diverse voices, which we know have the power to awaken empathy and redefine public discourse.”

Tom Stoppard – Recipient of Honorary PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award

PEN America introduced the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award in partnership with venerated late filmmaker and comedian Mike Nichols’ dear friend Lorne Michaels last year, when it was presented to Kenneth Lonergan. It confers a prize of $25,000 to a writer whose work represents the year’s best writing for performance, exemplifying excellence and influence in the world of theater, television, or film. At the March 2 ceremony, Lonergan, Cynthia Nixon, and Christine Baranski will pay tribute to Nichols and present the award to this year’s winner, Tom Stoppard.

At once elegant and variegated in their intellectual pursuits, Tom Stoppard’s twistingly cerebral plays are also suffused with humor and heart. Traversing time to extract new meaning from history and the literary canon, Stoppard dauntlessly maps the potentials and limits of human experience. In a review of Nichols’ 1984 production of The Real Thing, The New York Times deemed him “an intellect that has few equals in contemporary theater.” The Times (UK) has called him “Britain’s greatest living playwright.”

Stoppard’s newest play Leopoldstadt takes place in the eponymous old Jewish quarter of Vienna—where Jews from the Pale of Settlement migrated the late 1800s and early 1900s, seeking refuge from pogroms—and follows one Jewish family there across the first half of the 20th century. Though Stoppard often looks outward for influence, as evidenced in his works’ many references to and mind-warping reconsiderations of our literary past, he has described Leopoldstadt as a rare “personal” work. (Stoppard grew up fleeing the rise of Nazism, and his four grandparents were killed in concentration camps.)

M. NourbeSe Philip ­– PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature

Founded in 2016 in collaboration with the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature is conferred annually to a living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, represents the highest level of achievement in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and/or drama, and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship. Previous winners of the award include Sandra Cisneros, Edna O’Brien, and Adonis.

This year’s PEN/Nabokov Award judges—Alexis Okeowo, George Elliott Clarke, Hari Kunzru, Lila Azam Zanganeh, and Viet Thanh Nguyen—have chosen poet, novelist, and essayist M. NourbeSe Philip, who has bent and pushed poetry and prose in exhilarating directions, via vivid and fragmentary portraits of the pluralities of African Diasporic experience and searing indictments of the oppressive structures—legal, linguistic, social—carried across history into our present. The Tobago-born, Canada-based writer’s many singular, varied works include She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks, and Zong!

Tanya Barfield – PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award

The PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award reflects Laura Pels’s dedication to supporting excellence in American theater as well as PEN America’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding the literary accomplishment of playwrights. Recent winners have included Larissa Fasthorse, Sibyl Kempson, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Young Jean Lee, and Anne Washburn. Tanya Barfield’s “exquisite” (Time Out), “thoughtful and engrossing” (The New York Times) works—with by their resonance, poignancy, and meticulous social observation—epitomize the qualities the award was established to celebrate.

The judges of the 2020 award—Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kirsten Greenidge, and Naomi Iizuka—write, “With a unique emotional vividness and political nuance, Barfield’s body of work-to-date explores the complications of lives lived on the margins of belonging or between so-called ‘identities.’…Whether it’s the black tenured math professor in Blue Door (2006) coming to terms with the literal haunting of his ancestors or the couple attempting to adopt an African child battling the specters of their own white privilege in The Call (2013) or the intersectional lovers in Bright Half Life (2014) possessed by the spirits of their younger selves in a newfound era of marriage equality, Barfield’s worlds are full of ghosts and it is only through a confrontation with them that the living truly learn what it is to live.”

Leigh Silverman—who directed the premieres of Blue Door, The Call, and Bright Half Life—will present the award to Barfield at the ceremony on March 2. Actor Kerry Butler, star of The Call, and award-winning actor, writer, and singer-songwriter Eisa Davis (Pulitzer Prize finalist for Bulrusher) will perform excerpts from Barfield’s work.

Rigoberto González – PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry

Rigoberto González courtesy of Carlos Parker under CC BY-SA 3.0

“I think, How clever time works, overlapping people’s lives at certain stages, and as some eyes are waking up, others are already closing, securing the continuity of the world. My mother and I were connected for twelve years. She also lived during a time I didn’t exist. And I, in turn, must now keep living when she does not. And yet my father, who still shares the same wheel of time, is more like my parallel line.” Rigoberto González, Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Miriposa

Sample some of Rigoberto’s poems HERE.

The PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, established by a bequest from Hunce Voelcker and given in even-numbered years, confers $5,000 to a poet whose body of work represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature. The poet honored by the award is one who has expanded the scope of American poetry and continues to mature with each successive volume of poetry. Rigoberto González will be honored at the Ceremony on March 2, and will share a special reading of his poetry. Rigoberto González has authored five poetry collections, as well as two bilingual children’s books, and ten fiction and non-fiction books. A professor in the MFA program for Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark, he has served as a Faculty Member of CantoMundo; is a Founding Member of the Advisory Circle of Con Tinta, a collective of Chicanx/Latinx writers; and is a monthly columnist on Latinx literature for NBC Latino online as well as critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times.

As this year’s panel of judges—Cornelius Eady, Deborah Paredez, Linda Gregerson, and Monica Youn—writes, González has “devoted his writing life not only to the development of his astonishing voice as a poet and non-fiction writer but to his astute and discerning craft as a reviewer and steadfast advocate for other Latinx voices.”

The judges continue, “Rigoberto González is one of our great mythmakers, cutting to the core of historical narratives and present-day calamities, exposing the faultlines of greed and violence, love and hunger, cruelty and corruption, family and tribe that pattern human experience. The son and grandson of migrant farm workers, and claiming a cultural heritage of lyricism and activism, he is attuned to the voices of the dead and the living, and he counsels us ‘To reach the dead // walk toward the structures still standing, / their windows still looking in.’”

About the PEN America Literary Awards

The PEN America Literary Awards have, since their founding in 1963, brought together award-winning writers, editors, translators, and critics in dynamic and diverse panels of judges that determine the given year’s most resonant literature. Over the decades, the PEN America Literary Awards have expanded across genres, celebrating a wide range of writing and recognizing writers at every stage of their careers.

In recent years, the PEN America Literary Awards ceremony has evolved from an auditorium event for winners and their families into a preeminent gathering of the city’s writing and publishing luminaries and passionate book lovers, who unite to celebrate diverse voices and catapult new writers to prominence. The ceremony encompasses live winner announcements, dramatic readings from selected award-winning works, and a moving In Memoriam segment, which recognizes the literary greats lost over the last year. Recent ceremony participants and attendees include Hari Kondabolu, Matthew Broderick, Candace Bergen, Lorne Michaels, Zadie Smith, Diane Sawyer, and Steve Martin.

While the career-achievement awards are announced in advance, the honors for individual works are announced from the stage. PEN America has previously announced Finalists for the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, honoring a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit, and impact, and conferring a prize of $75,000 to its author. In their selection of Finalists, the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award judging panel—Marilyn Chin, Garth Greenwell, Rebecca Makkai, Michael Schaub, and William T. Vollmann—have elevated works that have reshaped the boundaries of form and signaled strong potential for lasting literary influence. The 2020 Finalists include Anne Boyer for The Undying (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Yiyun Li for Where Reasons End (Random House), Ilya Kaminsky for Deaf Republic: Poems (Graywolf Press), Rion Amilcar Scott for The World Doesn’t Require You (Liveright), and Chris Ware for Rusty Brown (Pantheon). The 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award winner will be announced live at the March 2 ceremony.

PEN America has also released Longlists for other 2020 Literary Awards, which can be found here.

Tickets for the Ceremony can be purchased here.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. This organization 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 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!


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

Zimbabwe Artists for Human Rights, Freedom of Expression, and Civil Dialogue: Poetry, Song, Dance,Theatre

Tafadzwa Muzondo curates  the Inaugural Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival. It was held December 10 –  13.

Thanks to our rich connection with Zimbabwean poet in exile, Mbizo Chirasha, I have the pleasure and privilege of expanding The Poet by Day to include African artists, to feature their efforts in support of human rights and just governance. More to come in 2020 from poets and other artists all over Africa. I hope readers will enjoy the lyrical difference in English, the passionate action, and the creativity demonstrated. The Poet by Day and The BeZine support crossing borders and honoring shared humanity. One world. One race: the human race. / J.D.

Machipisa in Highfeilds is a paradoxical African high density suburb in Zimbabwe. It gave birth to the both iconic song maestros and political heavyweights inclusive of the late George Nyandoro, Enos Nkala.  Robert Mugabe the late nationalist and former long serving president of Zimbabwe resided in Highfeilds before his long trip to Mozambican jungles to preside over the liberation struggle in the 70s . Highfeilds shaped the life and creativity of the late Dendera Superstar Simon Chopper Chimbetu, father the current Dendera crooner Sulumani Chopper Chimbetu. while the Oliver Tuku Samanyanga, the iconic Ketekwe maestro had most of his musical walk to stardom inside Highfeilds .

Theatre against violence showcase at HIFA

Like an other creatively fervent generation, to revive the legendary traits of Highfeild Tafadzwa Muzondo of the Edzau Isu fame, an independent theatre guru and human rights defender have artistically turned an old disused bridge into a popular, edutainment and infortainment theatre, arts and poetry venue. The artists and human rights defenders are using these venue as a space for artistic exhibition, freedom of expression through arts as they continue to promote civil dialogue through theatre arts production. Theatre PaBridge  (pa Machipisa) has become a common artistic oasis or Theatre Arts hub for both young and established artists in Zimbabwe and abroad .

If hate is the only beverage in the bar,
I’m holding on to my thirst,
suppress the crave for the meanwhile
reciting lines and verses that question our sanity,
rhythms and rhymes that expose us to our stupidity.
Assuming we still have the conscience
I want to see them meet the hatred in the streets…
i want them to know how we so much yearn for peace

– Edward Dzonze

Tafadzwa Muzondo and patterns at the launch of the Theatre PaBridge

To mark the International Human Rights Week Tafadzwa Muzondo, Edzai Isu Theatre Arts and Action Hub curated and hosted the inaugural Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival (ZHRF) at Theatre PaBridge from the 10th to 13th December 2019 . The artists spoke human rights through poetry, expressed freedom through dance, sung songs against political tolerance through Katekwe violins and used stand-up theatre to stop corruption, political abuse and injustice in high offices.  The Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival was an entertaining, engaging and empowering platform, which took stock of the human rights situation at local, national and international levels. It was a profound artistic initiative meant to mainstream human rights in an innovative way by rallying together rights holders and solution holders.

The late Zimbabwean musical icon, Oliver Tuku Mutukudzi

ZHRF featured theatre, music, dance and poetry performances on human rights as well as post performance discussions and exhibitions by relevant civic society organizations and responses by invited solution holders. Major highlights of the performances, discussions and representations will be streamed live on our social media platforms as well as other partner platforms.

The theme of the inaugural festival is “AFTER”, which is an abbreviation for Arts Fostering Total Enforcement of Rights also meaning AFTER all the bickering, sloganeering and propagandizing, citizens need their rights to be respected not trampled on.

It is encouraging that the Zimbabwean government has established the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a Constitutional Commission to promote awareness, protection, development and attainment of human rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe. As a transformative arts organization, EDZAI ISU Trust conceived a creative and innovative initiative in the name of ZHRF to commemorate Human Rights Day and contribute to the need to respect human rights in our dear country.

The universal declaration of human rights 10 December 1948 / courtesy of the United Nations Department of Public Information / Public Domain

Besides the Zimbabwean constitution being clear on human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by Zimbabwe, recognizes the inherent dignity of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. It includes civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security, health and education.

Tafadzwa Muzondo is the organizer.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival, the brainchild of award winning transformative artist and social activist Tafadzwa Muzondo, is a rallying point in the mission to improve accountable, democratic governance that serves an engaged citizenry. Respect for human rights is at the core of social and economic development as without citizens enjoying and authorities respecting human rights, we cannot talk of any meaningful people centered development.

Aluta Continua!

Jamie DedesAbout / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications: Five by Jamie Dedes on The World Literature Blog,  Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Womawords Literary Press, November 19, 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