Cave Canem

Alphabet City Tent (318 Sampsonia Way)
Weekly through August
Various times

An exciting summer stay-cation spot has set up shop along a cozy alley in the Mexican War Streets. Expanding its tent programming to host a full season of cultural events and activities, City of Asylum Pittsburgh has debuted its Summer on Sampsonia series which runs through August.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Kevin Young and Evie Shockley.
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Kevin Young and Evie Shockley.

Weekly events held in the organization’s welcoming, pop-up space—dubbed the Alphabet City Tent—include a variety of concerts, readings, film screenings, workshops, family events, and more. The majority of events are free, and all are designed to foster a vibrant community-based venue on the Northside.

Not to miss on Thursday—and one of City of Asylum’s most popular annual events—is an evening of poetry al fresco presented in partnership with Cave Canem, a national organization dedicated to supporting African-American poets.

The Alphabet City Tent.
The Alphabet City Tent.

Free and open to the public (RSVP strongly suggested here), the reading will feature three acclaimed poets: Van Clief-Stefanon, author of Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award; Evie Shockley, author of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award-winning poetry collection, the new black; and Kevin Young, who has published 11 books of poetry and prose.

Be sure to arrive early to snag a good seat and enjoy live music by jazz pianist Tom Roberts, who will kick things off under the tent at 6:45 p.m. A book signing with the featured writers will take place following the reading.

Since its inception in 2004, City of Asylum Pittsburgh has presented more than 300 writers and musicians from 60 countries at free readings and concerts. In September 2016, the organization will open its highly anticipated new HQ, City of Asylum @ Alphabet City, located inside a redeveloped Masonic Hall at 12 W. North Avenue (read NEXT’s coverage on the project here). The literary hub will include spaces for readings, performances, workshops and residencies, as well as a restaurant and a 1,200-square-foot bookstore.

Download a complete Summer on Sampsonia calendar here. Events are rain or shine.

On Sunday, June 19, the University of Pittsburgh, Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and Ace Hotel Pittsburgh are co-sponsoring a full day of public events celebrating Black poetry and marking the 20th annual Cave Canem Retreat for African American Poets. View details here.

Looking for more events? Read our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in July and our Everything you need to know about Pittsburgh concerts in July features.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.