The PEN World Voices Festival 2013

TONY helps narrow the field during this packed week of readings and conversations, which celebrates free speech around the world

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  • Photograph: Daniel Debove

    Eduardo Galeano

  • Photograph: Kesler Bien-Aimé

    Emmelie Prophete

  • Photograph: Tom Wallace

    Yusef Komunyakaa

Photograph: Daniel Debove

Eduardo Galeano


Among the highlights of the New York literary calendar, the annual PEN World Voices Festival brings together artists from across the globe to read, converse, debate and, most importantly, advocate free speech. As always, the week is so jammed with events that there’s just too much to do. We’ve selected a few of the most promising happenings to narrow the field a little bit.

Bravery in Poetry

One of the festival’s biggest draws involves tributes to beloved writers (many of whom are deceased), including Muriel Rukeyser and Joseph Brodsky. A number of invited poets, from Yusef Komunyakaa to Mary Karr, will read from one of their favorite verse authors and expound on what makes their chosen scribe’s life and work an example of moral courage. Tishman Auditorium (at the New School), 66 W 12th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves. Wed 1 at 7:30pm; $30, students $25.

NYU International Houses Mini Festival

Held in the picturesque Washington Mews, this “festival within the festival” tempts the frugal by offering gratis  workshops, readings and a book fair. Among the events are a conversation with African writers such as A. Igoni Barrett and one between Haiti’s Emmelie Prophète (Impasse Dignité) and Scotland’s James Kelman (Mo Said She Was Quirky). Washington Mews between Fifth Ave and University Pl. May 3 10am–7:30pm; free.

Watching the Meter: Poetry from the Taxi Drivers’ Workshop
What could be more humanizing, or fun, than peering into the lives of those diverse characters who help shuttle New Yorkers from place to place? A number of cabbies who participated in poet Mark Nowak’s writing workshops share their lives and thoughts in verse, which should be especially attractive to all the would-be voyeurs who want to know what their driver is thinking or talking about during those long cell-phone conversations. Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St. May 4 at 2pm; $15, students $12, plus $12 minimum.

Master/Class: Eduardo Galeano with Jessica Hagedorn
Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano (Memory of Fire, Open Veins of Latin America) has always mixed a crucial sort of journalism and politics into his stories; his work has been revisited by many in the States since Hugo Chávez gave a copy of Veins to Barack Obama. Here, Galeano talks about melding the poetic and political with Filipino-American playwright and novelist Jessica Hagedorn, who has addressed nationalist themes in works such as Dogeaters. Tishman Auditorium (at the New School), 66 W 12th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves. May 4 at 5pm; $20.

Granta: 2013 Best of Young British Novelists
When Granta touts budding novelists, the lit world listens. The journal’s recommendations, made periodically and for several different countries, encompass a wide array of authors and often foreshadow success to come. Catch a preview of its “Best of Young British Novelists” issue with several of the chosen writers, editor John Freeman and Hari Kunzru, who received the title in 2003 alongside David Mitchell, Zadie Smith and Philip Hensher. Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St. May 5 at 2pm; $15, students $12, plus $12 minimum.


The PEN World Festival runs Wed 1–May 5. Go to worldvoices.pen.org for details.


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