This is what’s called a narrative.
In a narrative I’m supposed to tell you the story of this project and what it means for the local poets, photographers, painters, small businesses and the general public. But what you have before you is more unruly than words on paper, or rather, digital words on a screen.
Pen Street: City of Poems is actually highly sensitive evidence. These poems are unflinching confessions and distinct fingerprints. In your hands, you have the DNA of your neighbors glaring back at you, which is nothing to scoff at in this day and age.
In this day and age, this is a fearless, exuberant and defiant war cry, a declaration of our humanity. This is the audacity of springtime to come so well dressed to a funeral.
What you have here is divination. A tearful sermon. Speaking in tongues. This is a sacred language written in various shades of English, some Spanish and even a little Portuguese.
In your hands, you have tough memories, love sick odes, whimsical imaginings and wine stained diary pages all ripe for you to read them and here you are, still waiting for your narrative.
You’re in luck, the anthology has around 100 true narratives in various shades of poetry, some memoir and even a little song. These are stories directly from the poets who lived them and they speak unapologetically for themselves...
Watch writers read their work in videos and interact with fellow poets on the City of Poems Facebook page.
Pen Street: City of Poems is a collaborative project that celebrates poets, visual artists, performers and other creators who share a connection with Reading, Pennsylvania. The project provides teaching opportunities for local artists, learning opportunities for students and leadership experience for community organizers.
The project draws positivity, movement, curiosity and interest to downtown Reading. Visual art installations based on original poetry in this anthology will decorate the windows and walls of Penn Street businesses. Performances fill physical and digital spaces. Community is fostered.
10 free workshops were offered as part of the project, each workshop is uniquely themed and facilitated. Several workshops were tailored for certain populations of varying physical, safety and language needs. Many of the workshops were to be held at locations in and around Reading. Due to recent restrictions on travel and gatherings, those workshops have been transformed into virtual workshops momentarily postponed.
Berks County Community Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funded the project. South Central PaARTners at Millersville University and Barrio Alegria provided support
In the news
Barrio Alegría’s first monthly poetry workshop series lasted from Nov. 14, 2018, to Nov. 21, 2019.
All of the two-to-three-hour workshops were free, open to the public, and hosted at Barrio Alegría’s headquarters at 140 N. 5th Street.
The series was hosted by the poet Glyph, also known as the journalist Anthony Orozco, and three guest hosts. All hosts prepared an agenda for their workshop.
Read the workshop curriculum below:
Noah Ayala, a Reading based poet who represented the United States in the 2019 Ditet e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival in Macedonia. He also hosts the monthly Poet Tree.
Abel D’Andrea, author of Crónicas de Una Tragicomedia Incompleta, visited Reading for his 2019 Crónicas de Polvo tour during the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Robin Gow, Kutztown-born poet, editor and Adelphi University teacher with an upcoming chapbook, HONEYSUCKLE, and an upcoming full-length poetry collection.
Special thanks to executive director Daniel Egusquiza, chief operating officer Arleny Pimentel, public engagement coordinator Amber Mancebo, art coordinator Valois Joubert, photographer Mateo Toro and all of Barrio Alegría.