Annual programs

Beltran Family Award Program

April 3, 2023: Writing Food in Asian America

"Food writing" is having a moment. Everywhere from film and TV to Instagram posts and TikTok videos, what we eat and how we eat it is in. But the way we use words around food, especially immigrant cuisine, is dated at best, Orientalist at worst. Join a panel of fiction and nonfiction writers as we discuss what it means to use words around immigrant cultures and cuisines, and think through how we talk and write about what we eat. Hosted by Piyali Bhattacharya, recipient of the 2022–2023 Beltran Award for Teaching and Mentoring.

Piyali Bhattacharya’s short stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic, among other publications. She is the editor of the N.E.A. grant-winning anthology Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion. She holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. from SOAS—University of London, and an M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where she was winner of the Peter Straub Award for Fiction. She is the Abrams Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, where she has won the Beltran Award for Innovative Teaching and Mentoring in Creative Writing.


2021–2022 Beltran Family Award winner Sam Apple and co-organizer Liwa Sun (C'24) have gathered a fantastic group of writers to celebrate the art of "noticing as a writer" by sharing some of the strange and absurd and delightful things they've observed of late. Presenters include Penn students Margaret Arfaa (C'24), Chelsea Cheng (C'24), Yanu Kume-Kangkolo ('23), Sophie Liebergall (GR'27), Ryan Norton (C'22), Liam Phillips (C'24), and Liwa Sun (C'24), and featured comedic writer Tom Grennell.


The conceptual movement in American poetry — dated from the New Coast Conference of March 1990 — is now thirty years old. We have also come to a hinge moment in American and global history, which we can call post-Trump. With these two moments in mind, 2020–2021 Beltran Family Award winner Ron Silliman has gathered a group of poets — Levi Bentley, Susan Briante, Simone White, and Timothy Yu — to address the question: what’s next in American poetry?

Levi Bentley is a 2019 LAMBDA Literary Fellow. They live in Philadelphia where they design and co-edit Asterion Projects with Ted Rees. They have released chapbooks through Lamehouse, Damask, and Well Greased Press. Their poems have appeared in Apiary, Bedfellows, BlazeVOX, Emerge: 2019 Lambda Anthology, We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, and other venues.

Susan Briante is the author of four books of poetry and, most recently, Defacing the Monument (Noemi Press, 2020). She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona and co-coordinates the writing program Field Studies Southwest, which brings MFA students to the U.S.-Mexico border to work with community-based environmental and social justice groups. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Simone White is a poet, literary critic, and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. White specializes in contemporary poetry and poetics, experimental writing, American literature and African-American cultural studies, and critical theory. Her books include Dear Angel of Death, Of Being Dispersed, and House of Envy of All the World, and the chapbooks Unrest and Dolly (with Kim Thomas). Or, On Being the Other Woman will be published by Duke University Press in fall 2021.

Timothy Yu is Martha Meier Renk-Bascom Professor of Poetry and professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the poetry collection 100 Chinese Silences (Les Figues Press), the Editor’s Selection in the 2014 NOS Book Contest. He is also the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford University Press), which won the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies, and of the forthcoming Diasporic Poetics: Asian Writing in the United States, Canada, and Australia (Oxford University Press). He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Twenty-First Century American Poetry and Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets (Kelsey Street Press), and he also serves as executive editor of the journal Contemporary Literature.


How does an idea become a book? How does an editor usher a manuscript into publication? Novelist Weike Wang will talk with editor Jennifer Kurdyla, taking Wang's novel Chemistry (Knopf 2017) as an example of how writer and editor work together to bring a new book into the world.

Weike Wang is the author of Chemistry (Knopf 2017). She is the recipient of the 2018 Pen Hemingway, a Whiting award and a National Book Foundation 5 under 35. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train and The New Yorker, among other publications. She is in the 2019 Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prizes. She currently lives in New York City and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is the Craven Writer in Residence.

Jennifer Kurdyla is a writer, freelance editor, and wellness teacher. She has acquired and edited a range of fiction and nonfiction at Alfred A. Knopf and The Experiment, and now supports literary arts as an independent ghost writer, collaborator, and publishing consultant. When she isn't reading, she is practicing and studying yoga and Ayurveda, and shares her knowledge of holistic well-being as a yoga teacher throughout New York City. She is the co-author of the forthcoming cookbook, Root & Nourish: An Herbal Cookbook for Women's Wellness, with Abbey Rodriguez. She lives in Brooklyn. Read more from Jennifer on her website,, or on Instagram @jenniferkurdyla.


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.