Annual programs

Beltran Family Award Program


Charles Bernstein, the 2018-19 Beltran Family Teaching Award-winner, invited Trisha Low (C’11) and Steve McLaughlin (C’08) for a poetry reading. Two current Penn undergraduates (and current students of Bernstein) James Albrecht (C’21) and Daniel Finkel (C’20) introduced the event.

Trisha Low is the author of The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013) and Socialist Realism (Emily Books, 2019). She lives in the East Bay. Low graduated from Penn in 2011.

Steve McLaughlin is a programmer and poet based in Austin, Texas. His works include the hoax anthology Issue 1, co-authored with Jim Carpenter (Principal Hand Editions, 2008), and Puniverse, a 57-volume collection of computer-generated puns (Gauss PDF, 2014). Steve has contributed to PennSound and the Electronic Poetry Center since 2005, and his poetry interview series Into the Field is on Jacket2. In recent years, he has used machine learning to catalog public radio archives at WGBH and KUT. Steve has a B.A. in English from Penn and an M.S. in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.


Dead Parents Society is a project that explores writing by those who have lost a parent at a relatively young age and that encourages conversation about the purpose of writing about such hardship, and also about the experience of reading such work. Can good writing also be therapeutic? Does writing about death always have to be sad? How do our past traumas shape our present perspectives? This reading will feature writers affiliated with the Penn and Writers House communities whose work has directly or indirectly been influenced by a parent's death. We promise this event wasn't as sad as it might sound. And we had comfort food!

Hosted by Jamie-Lee Josselyn, in each episode of Dead Parents Society a small group of us will hear an excerpt from a piece of writing about parental loss, as read by the author, then we'll discuss it for a bit without the writer, then we'll bring the writer in to give us some more insight on the piece and how it came to be. It is our hope that these discussions will be helpful to those of you listening who are writers yourselves, even if you aren't writing about loss, and also to those of you who aren't writers – or aren't yet writers! – who have grieved the death of a parent or someone else close to you.

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.