806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Award-winning Chatham University novelist Marc Nieson Debuts Memoir

City of Asylum (12th Year)

Marc Nieson

Friday, December 9th
8:00 pm

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

“Someone once told me that School and Life were different; in school they give you the lessons before the test, in life it’s the other way around.“

Marc Nieson, Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love + Landscape

Join us on Friday, December 9th for a reading by long-time friend of City of Asylum, Chatham professor and author Marc Nieson. We are honored to host a reading of his newly published book Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love + Landscape, in which he explores love, identity, and writing during his time in Iowa.

Structured like a schoolhouse primer, Marc’s personal and introspective memoir examines his life subject by subject. Each subject – from “Geography” to “History” to “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” – is a chapter describing his life-changing experience as part of the University of Iowa’s intensive writers’ retreat.

Marc will be joined by visiting City of Asylum writer-in-residence Ukamaka Olisakwe (Nigeria) from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

Marc NiesonMarc Nieson is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and NYU Film School. In the 1990s he worked with the International Writing Program, and is thrilled to be joining their ranks again for this reading. His memoir, Schoolhouse: Lessons on Love & Landscape just released from Ice Cube Press. ( He’s won a Raymond Carver Short Story Award, Pushcart Prize nominations, and been noted in Best American Essays. He teaches at Chatham University, edits fiction for The Fourth River, and is at work on a new novel, Houdini’s Heirs.

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Coming Soon: City of Asylum Books @ Alphabet City

City of Asylum (12th Year)

Coming Soon

City of Asylum Books is Almost Here

City of Asylum Books @ Alphabet City is an independent bookstore specializing in works in translation and world literature. We carry over 7000 titles for adults and children. We are dedicated to offering a geographically and linguistically diverse collection of translations from many genres: literature, poetry, history, travel, cookbooks, and children’s literature.

City of Asylum Books will also feature:

  • Complete collections of some of the most prominent publishers of translated literature, including: New York Review of Books, Archipelago Books, Dalkey Archive, New Directions, along with many others
  • A robust children’s section dedicated to promoting diverse authors and stories
  • A weekly Saturday morning story hour for children
  • A cookbook section (my personal favorite) featuring gorgeously produced regional and ethnic cookbooks from all over the world
  • A Free Book Program for our low-income community members

The bookstore is committed to furthering City of Asylum’s mission of giving voice and promoting cross-cultural exchange. We hope you will visit with an open mind and an open heart.

Stay Tuned to City of Asylum for Details

Do animals have a sense of humor? Find out on November 5th at Alphabet City

City of Asylum (12th Year)

In partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

Vinciane Despret

Saturday, November 5th
8:00 pm

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

What Would Animals Say...Do apes really know how to ape? Do animals form same-sex relations? Can animals create art? Are these even the right way to ask the questions?

Vinciane’s book, What Would Animals Say If We Asked The Right Questions?, poses twenty-six such questions that stretch our preconceived ideas about what animals do, what they think about and what they want.
In an abecedarium of twenty-six chapters, Vinciane Despret argues that behaviors we identify as separating humans from animals do not actually properly belong to humans. She does so by exploring incredible and often funny adventures about animals and their involvements with researchers, farmers, zookeepers, handlers and other human beings. These deftly translated accounts oblige us, along the way, to engage in both ethology and philosophy. She combines serious scholarship with humor that resonates.

Vinciane Despret

Vinciane Despret studied philosophy and, later, psychology, coming back to philosophy with her PhD in 1996. Her first field work was in the Negev desert, in Israel, where she explored the possibility of doing an ethology of the ethologists. She then wrote her PhD about the scientific practices that study emotions in humans and in animals. Currently she is Maître de conferences at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Liège, and at the Faculty of Anthropology and Social Sciences and Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education at the Free University of Brussels.

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Jazz Poetry Month: Final Three Concerts this Weekend

Jazz Poetry Month 2016

Final Three Concerts of Jazz Poetry Month

Mary Halvorson

Mary Halvorson (solo)

October 7th

Free Tickets

Tomas Fujiwara

Tomas Fujiwara

October 8th

Free Tickets



October 9th

Free Tickets

Last year, Thumbscrew – a trio made up of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Formanek (double bass) – created and recorded their new album Convallaria here at City of Asylum during their BNY Mellon Jazz Residency.

This year, to close out Jazz Poetry Month, these powerhouse performers return to Pittsburgh for a three-day showcase of talent not to be missed!

On Friday, October 7th, join guitarist Mary Halvorson for a solo concert. This NPR-featured performer has been deemed “a bridge between the jazz of the past and the jazz of the future” by the trendsetting review site Pitchfork. If you have heard her jazz interludes or Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR, now is the time to catch this nationally-acclaimed musician in person!

On Saturday, October 8th, catch a concert with Tomas Fujiwara and The Hook Up. Tomas and his band are at the front lines of today’s jazz and have been called “prominent representatives of new directions in jazz and improvisation.” Get a taste of the cutting-edge New York jazz right here in Pittsburgh!

Finally, on Sunday, October 9th, Thumbscrew reunites on the Alphabet City stage. This band has been dubbed “One of the most exciting bands currently playing,” and we could not be more thrilled to welcome them back to City of Asylum!

We cannot think of a better way to close out Jazz Poetry Month.

Get Your Free Tickets for an Evening with New Yorker Writer Laura Secor

City of Asylum (12th Year)

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City’s Freedom of Speech Series Presents

Laura Secor

Monday, October 12th
8:30 pm

Join us on Monday, October 12th for evening with The New Yorker writer Laura Secor, part of our Freedom of Speech Series.

Laura Secor will be presenting her new book Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran – an investigation into the lives of the journalists, activists and dissidents of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. She will also be taking questions from the audience.

Laura Secor

Laura has been researching and reporting on Iranian affairs for over a decade. She has covered Iran for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, and her work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The New Republic and other publications. She has served as staff editor at the New York Times Op-ed page, reporter at The Boston Globe, deputy editor of The American Prospect and senior editor at Lingua Franca.

Children of Paradise will be available for purchase at this event, with an author signing after the program. All book sales benefit City of Asylum.

RSVP to Reserve Your Free Tickets

Find out more about this lecture series and all of our City of Asylum @ Alphabet City events at Be sure to RSVP to save your seat!

Get Your Free Tickets to a Concert with “Guitarist of the Year” Mary Halvorson!

Jazz Poetry Month 2016

Jazz Journalists Association 2016 “Guitarist of the Year”

Mary Halvorson
solo concert

Friday, October 7th
8:00 pm

This will be a Concert of the Year in Pittsburgh. Mary Halvorson is rated one of the most exciting and listenable jazz artists alive today and this album is rated one of the albums of the year, just about everywhere. Put on your ears and come tonight, you will be very, very happy you did.

Before the concert, Mary will be presented 2016 Jazz Guitarist of the Year. We are honored that the Jazz Journalists Association has chosen City of Asylum to present the award.

– Henry Reese

About Mary Halvorson

Mary Halvorson“My favorite guitarist on the planet.“ — The Free Jazz Collective

“One of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz or otherwise.” — The Wall Street Journal

“A glowing critical consensus has formed around the guitarist Mary Halvorson…a credible vision of jazz’s near future.” — Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“Halvorson is the real thing…She pretty much has it all…adventurous but also accessible.” — Chris May, All About Jazz

“Halvorson has done more than anyone for jazz guitar in the last ten years.“ — AMN Reviews

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Jazz Poetry Month: Week Four @ City of Asylum

City of Asylum (2016)

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City Presents

Jazz Poetry Month:
Week Four

October 7th – October 9th
8:00 pm
40 W North Avenue

All events are FREE

Our annual Jazz Poetry Concert is now Jazz Poetry Month

Week Four features both solo and group performances from jazz phenoms! All of them have received great acclaimed from press nationwide. Each performer is a master of the craft, and it is a special and unique treat to have these artists play for us together or separately in a three-night showcase of these up-and-coming powerhouse performers.

Mary Halvorson, an NPR-featured performer, has been called “a bridge between the jazz of the past and the jazz of the future” by the trendsetting review site Pitchfork.

Tomas Fujiwara and The Hook Up have been praised by the New York Times for their “insightful, invigorating” performances. Tomas Fujiwara’s style has been described as “forward-driving but rarely blunt or aggressive, and never random. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint.

Thumbscrew itself – a trio made up of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Formanek (double bass)- has been dubbed “One of the most exciting bands currently playing.”

Thumbscrew created and recorded their new album Convallaria during their BNY Mellon Jazz Residency at City of Asylum last year. Their album artwork features shots from the renovation of the Masonic Building, now the home for City of Asylum @ Alphabet City, as well as a few pictures from Randyland just around the corner!

We are excited to welcome these world-class performers back to Pittsburgh for a three-day exposition of talent that is not to be missed.

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Get Your FREE Tickets to the U.S. Premiere of Alexey Kruglov & Jaak Sooäär Trio

Jazz Poetry Month 2016
Direct from Russia & Estonia


8:00 pm on both Friday, September 30th & Saturday, October 1st

2 Completely Different Concerts + 2 Different Sets of Poets

The Jaak Sooäär Trio with Alexey Kruglov is the first international jazz group ever invited to perform during Jazz Poetry Month Their performances in Pittsburgh will be their first U.S. performances ever, and they are coming directly to Pittsburgh from Estonia and Russia just for Jazz Poetry.

When I first heard Alexey Kruglov and the Jaak Sooäär Trio performing as “The Mighty Five,” I had never heard anything like it. The invisible fifth member of the group is actually a panoply of classical Russian composers who they have translated into jazz. I can’t describe the sheer exhilaration of what they do to “The Great Gates of Kiev” and how it lifts you into a euphoria.

I then began to listen to their other work and discovered just how versatile they were. They play in an entirely different register in recordings like “Military Spaces,” which has an extraterrestrial feel. So when we invited them, we asked them to play for several nights in each of these styles.

– Henry Reese

Reserve tickets for both nights and hear 2 different concerts.

Friday, September 30 Saturday, October 1

Jazz Poetry Month Begins This Week…

Jazz Poetry Month 2016

Jazz Poetry Month

Week One Featured Musicians:

Oliver Lake
Hamiet Bluiett
Roger Humphries
and The World Saxophone Quartet

Due to a delay in opening Alphabet City, this weekend’s concerts will be held in our Alphabet City Tent at 318 Sampsonia Way.

Week One of Jazz Poetry Month Has Sax to the Max!

Jazz Poetry Month begins this week with a stellar line-up of distinguished musicians and sax-driven jazz performances.  If you love the cool sounds of the saxophone at its best, this is a week not to be missed!

Jazz Poetry Month begins this Thursday, September 15th with a concert featuring legendary jazz great, saxophonist Oliver Lake as he debuts new and original poetry and jazz!

On Friday, September 16th, see hometown favorite drummer Roger Humphries share the stage with renowned baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bliuett. Hamiet has been itching to share the stage with Roger ever since he saw Roger play three unique sets during the 2007’s Jazz Poetry concert. This year, the two talents finally take the stage together at last!

Round off your weekend on Saturday, September 17th with international jazz sensations, The World Saxophone Quartet. Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett unite with saxophonists David Murray and Bruce Williams for a mind-blowing union of talents.

Make your weekend sax-tacular!

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Jazz Poetry Month Begins September 15th

City of Asylum (2016)

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City Presents

Jazz Poetry Month:
Week One

September 15th – September 17th
8:00-10:00 pm
40 W North Avenue

All events are FREE

Our annual Jazz Poetry Concert is now Jazz Poetry Month! It all starts on Thursday, September 15th with Oliver Lake’s solo jazz and poetry performance.

On Friday, September 16th, see hometown favorite Roger Humphries share the stage with renowned saxophonist Hamiett Bliuett for an evening of jazz poetry collaboration with City of Asylum writer-in-exile Israel Centeno.

Round off your weekend on Saturday, September 17th with international jazz sensations, The World Saxophone Quartet featuring the jazz poetry collaboration of Adriana E. Ramírez and Osama Alomar.

And that’s just Week One! All concerts will be held in our new City of Asylum @ Alphabet City facility, so rain or shine…it no longer matters.

Find out more about these and all our Jazz Poetry Month events at Be sure to RSVP to save your seat!

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