The poem she read

Posted: January 8, 2009 in prison, general, prisoner writing, story
Tags: , , ,

I’m here in Boston at school. Tonight I would normally be at the prison, working with the guys, hearing about celebrating Christmas and the new year behind bars. Perhaps talking resolutions, or at least hopes. Hearing new stories, writing new stories. Laughing. Perhaps crying. But I’m here, surrounded by words and lovers of words who still get to roam the outside and this is certainly my heaven, but I am cognizant of where I am not this evening. I am not behind the walls where I sometimes feel like I better belong.

Tonight though, at a poetry reading, Naomi Shihab Nye read a poem about her experience meeting with a group of prisoners at a maximum security prison. And as I listened, and as she spoke so eloquently via her poetry, about being changed by her experience of meeting with these men I thought of the guys at Monroe and how appreciative they would be that this woman stood at the podium and gave voice to their stories. I know that most of the time they feel as if they are forgotten, as if their stories, like them, have very little chance of making an escape over the walls. But if they only knew that there are others out here, speaking, and speaking beautifully, on their behalf, trying to give voice to the voiceless, trying to include them in the conversation, despite their absence they would be so lifted. I couldn’t have been more pleased that she chose to read the poem she did. And I’d like to think that it had something to do with the fact that I introduced myself earlier in the day after her lecture and thanked her for including prisoners in her work to bring stories of different people and cultures together. And I’d like to think that she understands there are so many, men and women, tonight, sitting in cells, who could just as easily sit amongst us students, just as easily keep up with our pens and some who could even make us stop and say, damn, now that’s a story, now that’s a writer.

My thanks to Naomi Shihab Nye for speaking of and for the prisoners tonight. It was only one poem amongst a reading of beautiful poems, but it made me think of the guys at Monroe and how I look forward to seeing them soon.


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