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Poetry Asylum and the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) are teaming up with PEN America to present BreakOut: Voices From the Inside as part of a nationwide activation in commemoration of the 1971 Attica prison uprising––honoring the struggle for free expression in prison, and underscoring the importance of writing as an act of creative resistance and triumph.

In concert with artist Daniel McCarthy-Clifford’s “Section of Disapproved Books” project at WAM, Poetry Asylum is teaming up with PEN America and WAM to host a three-pronged event bringing marginalized voices affected personally and/or culturally by mass incarceration, activists, and scholars into the historically white space of an art museum. This event seeks to disrupt traditional privileged contexts while generating critical dialogue around futurism, abolition, and art as catalyst to healing, justice, and peace.

Two panels will feature ten distinguished local members of All Square, MN Prison Doula Project, MN Prison Writing Workshop, unPrison Project, Voices for Racial Justice, and We Are All Criminals, among others––in open conversation, moderated by Sun Yung Shin and Michael Kleber-Diggs. Then a special pre-release screening of “Cell Watch: Strip Cell,” (Motionpoem by filmmaker Jane Morledge and poet Susannah Nevison) will be capped off with the PEN Prison & Justice Program’s poetry reading from six notable poets to celebrate and amplify the voices of incarcerated writers by connecting their work with the public.


Poetry Asylum benefit [sadly cancelled]

Due to bad timing on our part, we regrettably had to cancel our first annual Poetry Asylum Benefit at Public Functionary on Saturday, May 12, 2018. We had three dynamic, stellar poets Ifrah Mansour, Keno Evol, and Bernard Ferguson on deck, alongside two rising stars in our amazing music scene: LOTT (Leah Ottman) & Devata Daun (Nikki Pfeiffer). 



All cis men? All straight cis men? FOUR white dudes? WTF!!! (This is still happening everywhere!) The very premise of this event goes against our "mission" in every way, but we feel that in order to take poetry out of privileged spaces, we have to acknowledge privilege first by those who HAVE privilege in a privileged landscape for just a lucky few. We are in NO WAY celebrating white privilege, oh hell no! We want to shine a light on their privilege and what they're doing about it. In what ways have their privilege affected them as humans and writers? How are they/what can they do to dismantle heteropatriarchy in a white supremacist country/state/community, especially within literary circles. All cisgender male readings still occur across the Twin Cities. All white readings still take place. Let's talk about that. A brisk reading from each reader (5 min each) will be followed by a roundtable panel discussion moderated by Sun Yung Shin. . The conversation is not to celebrate privilege, but acknowledge it and how we can move forward to combat/reverse it. FREE & open to everyone!!



To break in the new Assembly space, an amazing group of writers shared their work, with our keynote speaker, poet & Art Director at Milkweed Editions, Mary Austin Speaker. Sun Yung Shin hosted a reading with Chris Martin, Junauda Petrus, Jordan Thomas & Sam Gould. FREE & open to everyone!!