PEN International: Send a Postcard to a Writer in Prison

by Joshua Barnes    /  January 10, 2012  / No comments

Formed in 1921 PEN International campaigns on behalf of writers across the globe who are persecuted, harassed, and attacked for what they have written, or for simply being a writer. With over 100 chapters spread over every continent but Antarctica, PEN is also a global network that connects with citizens to support freedom of expression, press governments for change, uphold internet freedom, and positively affect access to literature and literacy.

PEN Letters to Liu Xiaobo

Every year from November to February English PEN releases a list of writers in prison, and provides addresses or email addresses for each of them. The list is part of a program called Season’s Greetings, which calls on people to send a card to one of the many writers in prison that PEN supports. The idea is to bring the writers a small touch of the outside world. This year’s list contains writers from Bahrain, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Syria, and Turkey, among others.

For writers who don’t speak English, PEN has also translated the greetings into a number of languages.

While simple, the cards mean a lot. In the words of imprisoned Cuban poet and journalist Ricardo González Alfonso: “The cards from PEN brought…a thousand and one colors with their happy trills of hope…to the underworld of the prison. The daily damp seemed to do less damage, and even the mold on the walls seemed beautiful to me. It was as if freedom, that miracle, was staying in my cell.”

In a letter to PEN, Vietnamese editor Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, who was granted early release from prison this year, wrote about the significance of the cards she received: “How can I convey what it is I felt when I received your letters; every word penetrated my heart like drops of honey carrying those most earnest and heartfelt thoughts…”

Remember, Season’s Greetings runs through February, so there’s still time to send a card.

Take part in this important campaign and email cat@englishpen.org to request the 2011-2012 list of writers.

Note: These addresses should be treated as confidential, and as such must not be posted on a website or otherwise made public as this may lead to misuse by others.

View the PEN Writers in Prison Season’s Greetings program guidelines.

About the Author

Joshua Barnes is Sampsonia Way's Associate Editor. In 2010 he earned a bachelor’s degree in Fiction Writing and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. During his undergraduate career, he was awarded 2009′s Ossip Award in Critical Writing for Anna Kavan: A Critical Study. Josh is involved with several musical projects and working on a variety of multi-media narratives.

View all articles by Joshua Barnes

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