Annual programs

Beltran Family Award Program

February 16, 2017: Cecilia Vicuña: illustrated conversation

Join us for an illustrated conversation and dialog with poet & artist Cecila Vicuña. Louise Neri writes of her work: "Her work explores the symbolic function of weaving and language, spinning sound and time through the voice into invisible webs. Her intuitive, ritualistic performance, includes song and gesture. It refers to the perpetual motion of doing and undoing, pointing to an open-endedness which allows for improvisations and new connections." Vicuña will create an interactive conversation, discuss past and current projects, with a focus on the environment and its interaction with sound, poetry performance, and art. She writes: "Ritual acts connecting us with the future memory of the land.”

Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, visual artist and filmmaker born in Santiago de Chile. The author of twenty two books of poetry, she exhibits and performs internationally. An early practitioner of the improvisatory oral performance, her work deals with the interactions between text, textile, language and earth. In these multidimensional works an image becomes a poem, a film, a song, a sculpture or a collective performance. She calls this participatory, impermanent work “lo precario” (the precarious), a series of transformative acts or “metaphors in space” that bridge the gap between art and life, the ancestral and the avant-garde. In Chile she founded the legendary Tribu No in l967, a group that created anonymous poetic actions throughout the city. In l974, exiled in London, she co-founded Artists for Democracy to oppose dictatorships in the Third World. Her Selected Poetry is forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press, 2017. She divides her time between Chile and New York.

March 1, 2016: Home as Heart, and Hearth: Stories and Ideas

Home will be our focus during the 2015/2016 Beltran Family evening. What it is, how it is built, how it is found, and how it is sustained. Beloved Young Adult novelist A.S. King, New York Times writer and Young Adult novelist Margo Rabb, and National Book Circle Critics Finalist Rahna Reiko Rizzuto will read brief work written especially for the evening and join Beth Kephart, this year's Beltran Teaching Award winner, in a conversation. The “home” work of the guests and of Penn students will be bound together in a commemorative volume. An audio collage featuring Penn voices on home, as produced by Penn students in the Wexler Studio, will kick off the evening.

February 24, 2015: Mixtape Poetry Project

This year’s Beltran Family Program proved that cassette tapes--or, at least, the cases that hold them--aren’t obsolete. As usual, the Writers House was filled with poems, but this time, they were printed as miniature broadsides and collected in cassette cases. All this came thanks to Michelle Taransky, poet, writing teacher, former Writers House staff member, and 2014 winner of the Beltran Family Award for Innovative Teaching and Mentoring. Sponsored by the Beltran Family, the award goes to a faculty member who teaches writing, and who sustains teaching and mentoring relationships outside of class. Taransky invited 14 community members, including many of her former students, to select poems for four “mixtape” poetry collections. Each participant submitted three poems by other authors and one written by themselves. Participants, who also read their selected poems at the program, included Lily Applebaum, Halla Bearden, Victoria Ford, Elan Kiderman, Peter Laberge, Nadia Laher, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, Kenna O’Rourke, Sam Prieto, Rosa Escandon, Henry Steinberg, Hannah Van Sciver, Madeleine Wattenbarger, and Connie Yu. The miniature broadsides were designed by Madeleine Wattenbarger, and the mixtape covers were designed by Alli Katz. As each participant read the pieces they’d chosen, the audience heard poems by many Writers House favorites, including Rae Armantrout, CA Conrad and, of course, our own hub members.

January 30, 2014: Imagining the Future: Artists and Writers on the World to Come

Anthony DeCurtis, a distinguished lecturer in Penn's creative writing program and winner of the 2013-14 Beltran Award for innovative teaching, has commissioned new work that speculates on the shape of things to come. Apocalypse or utopia? Events out of control or the realization of shimmering possibilities? Hear and see a group of writers and artists share new work that will provoke your thinking and inspire you to engage the future with boldness and creativity.


Join us for a party in honor of the handmade letterpress edition of Sam Allingham's short story "I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart," based on the life of jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw. This artist's book edition, designed and produced by Henry Steinberg at Penn's Robinson Press (an imprint of the The Common Press), celebrates the story's setting and concept through its period-conscious design and construction. This publication was made possible by the 2012 Beltran Family Award For Innovative Teaching & Mentoring Award, whose recipient, Karen Rile, initiated the project to bring together some of the resources within the KWH community into an interdisciplinary literary, creative, and educational adventure.