Pen America – Worker Writers School Book Release
The Worker Writers School celebrated their 10 years at PEN America and their first book with a virtual reading for the PEN World Voices Festival. It was on International Workers Day, May 1, 2021, that they celebrated 10 years of partnership between PEN America and the Worker Writers School. In collaboration with Kenning Editions and Pilsen Community Books, launched Coronavirus Haiku, the first anthology to come out of their longest-running writing program.
Mark Nowak, a writer and founding director of the Worker Writers School, presented a selection of haikus written by “frontline workers” during the COVID-19 crisis. The poets included had 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 hailed 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.