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Cultural Erasure & Restoration

Join PEN Denver as they host a panel discussion in collaboration with The Word: A Storyteller’s Sanctuary and the Mile-High MFA in Creative Writing in Denver, Colorado. This event will be a part of the NEA Big Read initiative hosted by The Word, their “one-city, one-book” program. Their selection this year is Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. Mirroring the book’s themes of cultural erasure and restoration, this discussion will center on poetry’s vital role in pushing back against cultural erasure and censorship.

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Danez Smith is the author of three collections including Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead. They have won the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and have been a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in Poetry, the National Book Critic Circle Award, and the National Book Award. Danez’s poetry and prose has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker, GQ, Best American Poetry, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective. A former co-host of the Webby-nominated podcast VS (Versus), they are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, Princeton, United States Artists, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez has been featured as part of Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list and is the winner of a Pushcart Prize. They live in Minneapolis near their people.

Mathangi Subramanian is a neurodiverse South Asian American writer and educator. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, among others. Her novel Dear Mrs. Naidu won the South Asia book award, and her picture book A Butterfly Smile was inducted into the Nobel Museum by economics laureate Dr. Esther Duflo. A former public school teacher and education policy maker, she holds a doctorate in education from Columbia Teachers College and is a faculty member of the Regis Mile High MFA program and a guest artist at Denver School of the Arts.


Manuel Aragon is a Latinx writer, director, and filmmaker from Denver, CO. He is currently working on a short story collection, Norteñas. Norteñas is a collection of speculative fiction short stories centered in the Northside, a Mexican and Mexican-American centered part of Denver, and the people, ghosts, and demons that live there.

His work has appeared in ANMLY. His short story, “A Violent Noise,” was nominated for the 2020 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. He is a 2021 Periplus Collective Fellow.

He graduated from NYU’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. His film work – writing and directing – has been featured on MTV, Pitchfork, and Stereogum. He most recently won the CineLatino Pitch Latino Award for Emerging Filmmakers with his web series, Welcome to the Northside, a comedic take on gentrification and Latino displacement in North Denver.


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