Exhibitions - My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust

Free Verse
My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust

10.06.19 – 04.26.20

Community Partnership Exhibition Program

A red graphic with three, black and bold words stacked to form a single column. Each word is crossed out with thick, black line.

Image: Pablo Delcan, detail, "Free Verse Magazine", 2016.

My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust presents text-based art and creative arts programs produced by participants of Free Verse. Initiated in 2012, Free Verse is a poetry workshop, working artists program, publishing house, and magazine that works with people in NYC Department of Probation waiting rooms to turn “waiting time into creative-time.” Poets share experiences with the criminal justice system, family shelters, racial profiling, among other critical social issues. While focused on serving those stuck waiting in probation centers, all workshops, open mics, inclusion in the magazine, and book-making are open to the public. The project has also evolved to offer participants job opportunities as teaching artists as part of a Working Artists Program.


Join Free Verse teaching artists on select Sundays Feb 23 – April 19, from 2-4pm, for a series of drop-in workshops, activated within the exhibition. Create and exhibit your original graphic and visual poems inspired by What’s Your Story?  ten word story poster project. Select Sundays: Feb 23, March 1, March 8. Moved online: March 29, April 5, and April 19.


UPDATE: In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Free Verse poetry workshops are being moved online. Together with Free Verse, we will be hosting Open Mics on Zoom March 29th, April 5th, and April 19th. The week of each Open Mic a new “Poets Respond” prompt will be posted and Free Verse participants and the public are invited to share their poems during an hour-long digital Zoom meeting that Sunday.


We are grateful for the work of Free Verse and look forward to holding this space for sharing our experiences and learning from one another in this time. At the end of each Open Mic session we will highlight the work of one organization that is advocating for those affected by the criminal justice system. Join us to share your poem or listen to the readings.


A special thank you to the funders of this program and their commitment to this work: Poets & Writers, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and NYC Dept. of Probations.


March 29, 2-3pm: Free Verse Open Mic:
Poets Respond: to the theme SOLITARY SOLIDARITY. Write 1-3 poems about your current experience around social distancing and confinement during the Covid-19 pandemic and/or what previous experiences are helping you cope now.


April 5, 2-3pm: Free Verse Open Mic:
Poets Respond: ANTIDOTES TO UNCERTAINTY – Odes and Praise Poems to those that inspire us. We have so many heroes that are lighting the way in this uncertain time. Who do you want to honor? Who is giving you hope? Write 1-3 praise poems. For example, write one for a public figure, another for an animal or object, a third for a personal hero or family member.


April 19, 2-3pm: Free Verse Open Mic:

Poets Respond: LET’S DREAM – GLOBAL VIRAL HEALING. Write 1-3 poems about what type of healing – physical, evolutionary, political, spiritual, or economic – is needed now, as the whole world is experiencing the devastating impact of the pandemic. Take us into the vasts of your magical thinking and radical imagination.


Free Verse, dedicated to addressing economic inequality, is an initiative of poet, playwright, translator, and actor Dave Johnson. Serving as Poet in Residence for the NYC Department of Probation for eight years, Dave teaches writing and performance workshops, curates events, edits Free Verse publications, and creates employment opportunities for court involved clients and poets. Free Verse was launched by Lonni Tanner, Chief, Civic Innovation, NYC Department of Probation.


My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust is the title of a poem by Free Verse participant Azalea Fairley.


This exhibit and associated public programs are supported in part by Nancy Pantirer – 81 Leonard Gallery, NeON Arts, NYC Department of Probation, Poets & Writers, and Teachers & Writers Collaborative.


Download past issues of Free Verse magazine here:


My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust is presented as part of Queens Museum’s Community Partnership Exhibition Program, which provides opportunities for cultural and other nonprofit organizational partners to develop and mount short-term exhibitions based on their programs and our collaborative projects.


Verso libre, Mi(s) palabra(s)  Estas son las herramientas en las que confío, 23 feb–29 de mar

Verso libre es un programa de talleres de poesía llevado a cabo en las salas de espera de los centros de libertad condicional en la Ciudad de Nueva York. Teniendo como resultado micrófonos abiertos (open mics)  y revistas que muestran las experiencias de los participantes en el sistema de justicia penal, la elaboración de perfiles con sesgo racial, la desigualdad y otras cuestiones sociales fundamentales.

Esta galería alberga exposiciones de otras organizaciones culturales sin fines de lucro. Además, presenta obras realizadas por los estudiantes de nuestros programas educativos.


My Word(s) – These are the tools I trust is supported in part by Nancy Pantirer – 81 Leonard Gallery, NeON Arts, NYC Department of Probation, Poets & Writers, and Teachers & Writers Collaborative.