Reentry Lab & ArtStart Writing Fellowship

The fellowship is designed to create opportunities for mentorship, teaching experience, and creative time for individuals who have been impacted by the criminal legal system.

The first recipient of this fellowship is Davi Gray, a poet and writer with several PEN America Prison Writing awards. Gray’s mentor is nationally recognized writer Michael Kleber-Diggs, a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in Literature for 2023-2025, and author of the poetry collection, Worldly Things.

During the course of the fellowship Kleber-Diggs will teach an adult beginning poetry class, Line, Sound, Meter, and Voice: Poems as Beautiful Songs. A second poetry class will be designed and taught by Davi Gray, titled Revision, Reuse, and Resurrection: The Wheel of Poetry. The culminating event of this pilot project will be the publication and launch of Gray’s first chapbook.

In this workshop we will explore craft elements that lead to beautiful, meaningful poems. Grounded in nature poetry and nature themes, we will study the poetic line, sound and meter in poetry, and how our individual voices shape the work we make. Each week we’ll read together, write together, and share ideas together. The class runs for four weeks on Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., beginning May 6th.

This workshop will focus on the art of poetry regeneration: taking work that is unpolished, unfinished, or just plain unsatisfying, and turning it into something miraculous. Or at least better. We will practice reading, writing, rewriting, and workshopping poems; discuss, experiment with, and practice a plethora of revision techniques; explore forms specifically designed for reusing and repurposing work, including the Golden Shovel, the cento, blackout/erasure poetry, and visual techniques; and discuss and practice various techniques for reading poems out loud, both as a way to present one’s work and as a tool for improving the poetry. The class runs for four weeks on Monday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. beginning June 17.

The Reentry Lab’s Mission
The Reentry Lab is endeavoring to provide a platform to connect arts and other community-focused organizations with a diverse pool of talented, resourceful, and motivated people impacted by the criminal legal system, in order to provide returning citizens with broader access to job opportunities, a variety of resources for smooth reentry, and routes to engage deeply with arts, social-justice, and community-focused organizations. The Reentry Lab helps organizations identify incentives, training, resources, and best practices in hiring, working with, and supporting returning citizens, fostering more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and empathetic communities.

Davi Gray

Davi Gray (they/she) is a queer, trans, nonbinary poet & writer, storyteller, artist, activist, and abolitionist. They live in North Minneapolis (Bde Óta Othúŋwe), within Mni Sóta Makoce, traditional homelands of the Dakota and Ojibwe. Davi has won several prizes in PEN America Prison Writing Contests in multiple genres; was nominated for an AWP Intro prize; and was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2023 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry contest. Their writing has appeared in Poetry, Rogue Agent, NonBinary Review, and elsewhere. They can often be found performing around the Twin Cities. You can find more on Davi Gray and their work, including upcoming events, at

Michael Kleber-Diggs

Michael Kleber-Diggs (KLEE-burr digs) (he/him/his) is a poet, essayist, arts educator and literary critic based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His work often considers themes of intimacy, community, and empathy, concepts he argues are different but also related and interdependent. Michael’s debut poetry collection, Worldly Things was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. His poem “Canine Superpowers” appears in You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World, edited by Ada Limón and also published by Milkweed Editions. His essay “There Was a Tremendous Softness” is included in A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars (Milkweed Editions 2023). Michael is currently working on a memoir about his complicated relationship with lap swimming called My Weight in Water (forthcoming Spring 2025), and he’s started to put a few poems into the same blue folder under the working title Second Book of Poems, but he suspects that title will change. 

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