[VIRTUAL] Worker Writers School 10th Anniversary Celebration & Book Release

Colorful assorted shapes and flower in background; on top: “Worker Writers School: 10th Anniversary Celebration & Book Release”


This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit pen.org/festival to learn more and get tickets for other events.

Join us on International Workers Day, May 1, 2021, as we celebrate 10 years of partnership between PEN America and the Worker Writers School. In collaboration with Kenning Editions and Pilsen Community Books, we will be launching Coronavirus Haiku, the first anthology to come out of our longest-running writing program.

Mark Nowak, a writer and founding director of the Worker Writers School, presents a selection of haikus written by “frontline workers” during the COVID-19 crisis. The poets included here have been studying examples of the haiku as a literary form and its connection to political resistance from 17th-century Japan to the Black Arts Movement of the 20th century, as well as its capacity to amplify voices of everyday life.

These “coronavirus haikus” convey moments of protest, solace, wonder, certainty, love, and strife. The writers in this anthology hail from the school’s worker center partners in New York City, including Domestic Workers United, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, The Street Vendor Project, and Retail Action Project: Thomas Barzey, Kerl Brooks, Estabon Chimilio, Nimfa Despabiladeras, Lorraine Garnett, Davidson Garrett, Seth Goldman, Christine Lewis, Doreen McGill, Alando McIntyre, Kelebohile Nkhereanye, Alfreda Small, and Paloma Zapata.

This digital event will start at 8pm ET / 7pm CT.

Presented in collaboration with Kenning Editions and Pilsen Community Books, with support from the Vilcek Foundation.

Worker Writers School logo     Pilsen Community Books logo   Kenning Editions logo   

Vilcek Foundation logo

Buy your copy of Coronavirus Haiku from Pilsen Community Books today. Nowak’s newest book, Social Poetics, largely inspired by his time with the Worker Writers School, is also available for purchase.


The Worker Writers School supports writers from one of New York City’s most ubiquitous and yet least-heard populations: low-wage workers. Mark Nowak, a poet and former trade unionist, founded the institute at a Ford factory in 2011. At monthly writing workshops, taxi drivers, nannies, street vendors, construction workers, food service workers, home-health aides, maids, nail salon manicurists, and retail cashiers, among many others, come together to reimagine their working lives through poetry. The program nurtures new literary voices directly from the global working class and inspires new tactics for working-class social change.

About Kenning Editions

Kenning Editions was founded in 1998 as a small press literary journal exploring “poetics as civic discourse.” The journal, dubbed a “newsletter,” published 13 issues and several chapbooks. Then it became the press it is today, publishing mainly paperback books exploring the meaning between aesthetic quality and political commitment. Our projects include archival works by Audre Lorde, Hannah Weiner, and Miyó Vestrini, and new translations of contemporary poets from the Americas and Europe, including Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, Nathalie Quintane, and Soleida Ríos. The press is based in Chicago.

About Pilsen Community Books

Pilsen Community Books was founded in 2016 as a general interest used bookstore in Chicago’s beloved Pilsen neighborhood. In March 2020, Pilsen Community Books transformed into Chicago’s only employee-owned and operated independent bookstore. The staff’s goal is to unite their passion for bookselling with their belief that labor is entitled to all it produces.

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