Banned Books Week 2019: Ann Arbor
In honor of Banned Books Week 2019 and PEN America’s Literature Locked Up campaign, Ann Arbor hosted an event Sunday, September 22 with a reading exploring how to disrupt labels and qualifiers attached to writers, including those who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Featuring PEN America Writing for Justice Fellow Justin Rovillos Monson, 2019 PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry honoree, Jonah Mixon-Webster, and other local writers such as H.R. Webster, Missie Alanis, and Phil Christman. This event was free and open to the public.
The event included individual readings as well as a short panel discussing the topic at hand, providing an opportunity for participants to sign a petition calling for the right to read in American prisons. Reach out to Katie Zanecchia, National Outreach Program Director, if you’d like to stay in touch for more upcoming events.
Justin Rovillos Monson, a first generation Filipino-American artist, was the winner of the inaugural 2017 Kundiman/Asian American Literary Review/Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Mentorship in poetry. A love poet, he seeks in his writing to catalog the body incarcerated, to misbehave, and, most of all, to conjure a poetics of reaching. He was born and raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, in Oakland County, and is currently serving a sentence in the Michigan Department of Corrections, from which he hopes to be released in 2027.
Jonah Mixon-Webster is a poet-educator and conceptual/sound artist from Flint, MI. His debut collection, Stereo(TYPE), was selected by Tyrone Williams for the 2017 Sawtooth Poetry Prize from Ahsahta Press. He is completing his Ph.D. in English Studies at Illinois State University, and is the recipient of fellowships from Vermont Studio Center, The Conversation Literary Festival, and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. His poetry and hybrid works are featured or forthcoming in Muzzle, Callaloo, Spoon River Poetry Review, Assaracus, Voluble, Best New Poets 2017, and Best American Experimental Writing 2018. He is 1/6th of the Detroit-based multidisciplinary Black arts collective CTTNN Club (Can’t Take These Niggas Nowhere).
H.R. Webster is a poet and educator from New England. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. H.R. has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and InsideOut Detroit Literary Arts. She has served as Assistant Editor of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing and helped launch the Poetry Beyond Bars Summer Writing Intensive. H.R. has taught writing in prisons, secondary schools, museums, and colleges around New England and the Midwest. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing and serves as the Managing Editor of the Michigan Quarterly Review. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Ecotone, Black Warrior Review, The Seattle Review, Ninth Letter, and other journals.
Missie Alanis is an emerging Libra poet who believes in light and love. Her work has appeared in The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing.
Phil Christman teaches English at the University of Michigan and edits the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. He is the author of Midwest Futures (Belt Publishing), which will appear in March 2020.