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Monday, July 04, 2011

Poetic License: Prison group’s poems free the soul

An article in The Providence Journal at writes about poets teaming up with some prisoners to help all express their joys and woes.

QUOTE: Every other Saturday since 2008, a team of up to six poets visits the Medium Security section of the ACI to take part in a writing workshop with inmates. The inmates receive no good behavior points for attending, and the poets — among them Margie Flanders and Lisa Starr — receive no pay for making the trip. The result is that everyone is on an equal footing.

Here’s a group poem, written last November by members of Ocean State Poets and poets in the Medium Security prison in Cranston.

Why Do We Write?

Because poetry is a long black wool scarf

wrapped eight times around our necks.

Because poetry is the wind biting our jackets

by the frozen bay we fall into, and are then saved from

by mermaids who leave us shivering and thanking heaven.

When poetry comes to town, it carries

a small cab full of letters and rotten fruit, with worms

as strong and dirty as the sorrows of this year’s hell.

We wash our hands, pick up our heads, lean away

from the crushed rock of silence, and then write.

One poem closes our eyes like a setting sun strung

with rosary beads, cold and restless. Another poem

is blood flowing, holding a cleaver in its scarred hand.

The fist of one poem hits the side of the house

in another, stained glass shattering our souls.

We write because poetry rocks in a chair while shingles

fly across the lawn and overgrowth cuts itself down.

We write to send our imagination ahead of us, sweeping

words into a great story, forceful enough to uproot trees

lining the runway as our poems take off into backlit clouds.

So we open the doors together, let hinges creak, speak,

not to silence desire but to unleash it, to loosen the grip

of our lives on our souls. Filling our skins with listening,

we turn our poems into shared treasure, a sort of currency,

like big wallets full of joy, there for us to spend.

And yeah, that’s why we write,

but also because we can’t not.

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