Forced Migrations & Poetry as Encounter

A poetry reading and conversation about contemporary migration and stories of border crossings


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Social Justice / Global South working group at the University of Pennsylvania

Contributing Institutions

Hispanic & Portuguese Studies, The Kelly Writers House Wexler Studio, Latin American & Latino Studies program


Jennifer Ponce de León

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Forced Migrations & Poetry as Encounter," a reading and conversation with Argentine poet Dani Zelko on Monday April 22, 2019 from 6-8 pm. Zelko will discuss his latest bilingual book Reunión: North Border / Frontera Norte, which he co-produced with persons from Latin America and the Middle East in the context of their migration to the U.S. and Canada. Zelko will be in conversation with scholar Jennifer Ponce de León of the Social Justice / Global South working group at the University of Pennsylvania, which is co-presenting this program with support from Hispanic & Portuguese Studies, the Kelly Writers House Wexler Studio, and the Latin American & Latino Studies (LALS) program.

Zelko is a poet from Buenos Aires who describes his practice as a search for an "affective conceptualism." His ongoing project Reunión is organized around a procedure in which invites strangers to write poems together. After spending time together, these persons dictate their stories to Zelko, who acts as their scribe. The next day, he prints the poems in chapbooks and organizes a gathering where the author will read his book, and other books from Reunión are also read. In the project's second phase, Zelko finds spokespersons for the writers, who then read the poems aloud in other towns. As he writes, "At the beginning, in an encounter, spoken word becomes written word. At the end, poems make possible an encounter where the written word becomes oral. Poems are at last between two persons instead of two pages."

To create Reunión: North Border / Frontera Norte, Zelko traveled through towns, rural communities, and border crossings in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, where he met people who had been forced to leave their homes – in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Iraq, Jordan, Haiti, Cuba -– and migrate to North America. Reunión: North Border is a collection of their life stories. It also includes analyses of contemporary migration by leading intellectuals from Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina.

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Describing his work, Dani Zelko writes, "My work is made up of words and people, that are put together through various procedures to generate actions and events. I'd say I work on the intersection between poetry and contemporary art but I believe that interaction is present in every artwork." His other publications include Juan Pablo por Ivonne: El contra-relato de la doctrina Chocobar (2018), Reunión: Temporada 2 (2018), 19.11.2017 - 13:14:40hs (2017), Reunión: Season One (2017), Las preguntas completas de Osvaldo Lamborghini (2016), Selección Sudamericana X la muerte (2016), and Post-Natural (2015).

He has also published his translations of "Personismo" by Frank O'Hara (2018) and "Fuego al final del arcoíris" by Shawn Vandor (2016), and is the editor of La Manzana no Espera by Ricardo Carreira (2018). He has exhibited and presented his work in universities, museums, and art spaces in the U.S.A., Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, and Paraguay.

"Migrants are being constructed as political enemies" "Migrants are being incorporated into the discourse of war" "What's new is not migratory movements, what's new is this global regime of borders, this neoliberal fantasy of trying to govern human mobility" "Why can't we understand that migration is the aftermath of colonialism and slavery?" "Migration is the very dispute of what we call borders!" "Migrant caravans are an uprising! A rebellion!" "The act that migrants are carrying out puts an end to an era, it invents a new historical and political moment" "To migrate is pure will of life" "All living beings move to where there is water, food, and light" "To migrate is to begin a new story for your life."

— Dani Zelko, Reunión: North Border

Download Reunión (PDF)