New York City, April 13, 2012—PEN Haiti is hosting its first international Free the Word! festival from April 20 to 22, with a special series of events taking place in Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves. Free the Word!, PEN International’s network of literary festivals around the world, celebrates the best of contemporary literature and aims to introduce readers to both established and emerging writers. Each festival is rooted in its local culture, but is international in outlook, and seeks to bring together writers from across cultures to share experiences and explore ideas.

The program of events for Free the Word! Haiti includes discussions on issues such as freedom of expression in times of crises (“La Libre Expression en Temps de Crise”), women’s writing and free speech (“Paroles de Femmes, Paroles Libres”) and an examination of the work of PEN International in promoting freedom of expression (“L’engagement du PEN International pour la liberté d’expression”).

The festival will also pay homage to Haitian writer Jacques Stephen Alexis, who was murdered under the Duvalier regime in April 1966. There will be a special event dedicated to the memory of Alexis, including a screening from filmmaker Arnold Antonin, winner of a Cannes prize, and a presentation of Alexis’s work by Albert Moléon.

The festival will feature a host of Haitian and international writers, including Roger Bonair-Agard, the prize-winning poet and spoken word artist. Free the Word! is a testament to the resilience and determination of PEN Haiti, whose founder Georges Anglade was among those killed in the devastating earthquake which struck the country in January 2010.

The event is co-sponsored by PEN Haiti, PEN International, and PEN American Center.

Background on PEN Haiti

PEN Haiti was created in 2008 by author and academic Georges Anglade, who introduced the new center at the PEN International Congress in Bogota, Colombia. The Center enjoys a membership of nearly 100 established and emerging writers and journalists.

PEN Haiti embraces the values of freedom and peace, and aims to encourage an exchange between Haitian and foreign writers, between authors and readers, and promotes the free sharing of knowledge and access to culture.

Note to editors

PEN International is a leading cultural and advocacy organization which celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, PEN International’s global community of writers now comprises 144 centers spanning more than 100 countries. PEN’s programs, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organization and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

Photos and updates will be available during the festival at

Paul Finegan, Literary Manager, PEN International
Jean-Euphèle Milcé, President, PEN Haiti
Deji Olukotun, Freedom to Write Fellow, PEN American Center