Join PEN America for an electric night of award-winning work from the 2018 Prison Writing Contest, visioned and hosted by Caits Meissner & Robert Pollock of PEN America. The work of writers in prison will be staged by Joshua Bennett (The Sobbing School), emerging poet Ammayeah Benton, Sergio De La Pava (Lost Empress), Baz Dreisinger (Incarceration Nations), Brendan Kiely (Tradition, All American Boys), Ian Manuel (featured in Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy), Jackie Wang (Carceral Capitalism), and Rehabilitation Through the Arts’ alumni theater group. Currently incarcerated artists have been commissioned to score collaborative movement and song through Dances For Solidarity and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections, accompanied by Musicambia’s string quartet.
Caits will perform a 15-20 minute set at The Beat Music Series at Silvana in Harlem is every second Tuesday of the month (8pm-10pm). Their mission is to bring positive life changing music and art together in one room to spread peace and love! Past performers have included Reyna, Lynette Williams, Dasha Kelly, Incksalonius among others. Learn more at Beat Music Series.
Caits Meissner and Robert Pollock of PEN America join as special guests for the community talk back post-show engagement with National Black Theater. The Peculiar Patriot, written and performed by Liza Jesse Peterson, confronts the complex and critical issue of mass incarceration. The play follows protagonist Betsy LaQuanda Ross, a self-proclaimed peculiar patriot, as she makes regular visits to penitentiaries to boost the morale of her incarcerated friends and family, navigating love between barbed wire. As she shares neighborhood updates and gossip and reminisces about family, Betsy delivers a shrewd indictment of the criminal justice system in her own authentic and inimitable style, with a heavy dose of humor to boot.
Online Workshop: & They Call Us Crazy: Outsider Writing To Cross the Borders of the Human Imagination
Via the Transformative Language Arts Network. In this creativity-generating workshop we’ll follow in the footsteps of genius eccentrics, outsiders and outlaws who've stepped beyond their perceived limitations, risking ridicule (and worse) to access their unique creative offerings — ultimately proving that what is outside the norm — and the academy — is often the most deliciously innovative and juicy. Together we’ll engage boundary-pushing art-making and writing exercises to become co-conspirators in building a vibrant universe, soaked in the imagination’s brightest colors. Learn more here.
For over thirty years, the PEN Prison Writing Program has mentored men and women incarcerated in America’s prison system, helping them to unlock their voices and imagination. Join us for this celebration of the human spirit, and hear readings of the best writing from the PEN Prison Writing Contest, read by Mitchell S. Jackson, Julia Steele Allen, asha bandele, Donna Hylton, Alejo Daw’ud Rodriguez, Raquel Almazan, Liza Jessie Peterson, and hosted by PEN America's Caits Meissner and Robert Pollock.
You are invited to an Urban Investigation debut presentation! The Center for Urban Pedagogy collaborated with Teaching Artist Caits Meissner and public high school students from the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice to investigate these questions. Students surveyed members of the school community, interviewed key stakeholders working on the issue, and sat in on public arraignments at the Bronx Criminal Court. The team gathered what they learned and created Who Makes Bail?, a guide to how the bail system works and its impact on local communities.
Caits' blurb for Devin's book: Devin Kelly's visceral poems thrust us into the rich journey of growing up, confronting the ause and effect of the ordinary violence we inherit and internalize. They accuse with the kindest finger, locating what makes and breaks a family, the turbulence of masculinity, the tender ache of loss, memories that scar and shape into a searching conscience. The question that surfaced over and over while reading: in myself, in others-- what can and should be forgiven? In Devin's Quiet Church of Night, the poems whisper that perhaps the answer is everything, to which I am relieved and I am grateful and I say again and again: amen.