I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by/ madness, starving hysterical naked,/ dragging themselves through the negro streets at/ dawn looking for an angry fix,/ angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient/ heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night …—Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”
When we went inside this week, we focused on national poetry month. The women requested working with the beat poets, figures like Allen Ginsberg, Anne Walden, and Jack Kerouac who in a effort to expand consciousness changed poetry and influenced generations of writers and other artists in popular culture.
Their intention was to shake up culture, change minds to change systems, freeing ideas, art, and people in the process. These notions are not only ideas for the women inside but imperatives. As you’ll see in the pieces that follow, the systems are as tangibly confining as the walls of the prison. The system – the structured ideas that build the walls, the doors, the bars and fences. These two voices urge us to alter our ideas, the systems, so the walls may come down and hope and everything else is free.
To the System
I sit in a system that has far out-broken right from wrong, has long out-lasted its last facelift and has done little to sustain its swinging back door. My own body has been over-stimulated by this system, loudness echoes each corner of these walls. But does the system listen to the voices that vibrate along the bricks. Hoping ears become penetrated by whispers—do you care?
I am a mother of four children lost in a system. My mother was one of seven children all lost in a system. I’ve heard the stories about systems being enveloped by smaller systems and those systems became so big they forgot their own mission statement.
I know when I’m not forced to be within this system. I have my own system. It’s my own life system. I have a comfy couch I like to watch TV on. It longs to become used. Themes, pictures, within my life that remind me of the ones in my life that had no choice but to be forced into a system. When does the system give up? Wrong doing stand up and fight for what’s right? Who give power to me and women in position that abuse it? Is there a secret system, we don’t dare to look at. We are a system is sick with secrets once we choose to stand and voice those secrets, then does the system change? I know I’m stuck in a system that does not work. I sit in a system that is fear, I stood up last night and howled loudly, fear springing forward, knocking it over with the truth, hatred churning in the bellies of so many broken women.
What is my howl?
What I see every day incarcerated brilliant minds, untapped potential. Beat down by a system so unwilling to see the good.
What we all want: a breath of new life, a fighting chance.
These set-ups for failure are convenient at worst and very lucrative.
I can shout and shout, but when I’m locked in this cage, it seems no one can hear me. I know that you all can hear me, but where it matters, my message falls on deaf ears.
Conformity to me is sickening. I do not fit in a mold. My mind numbs at others’ ability to march on, heads down, doing the same as the next, and so on.
I want us to all be the different that we are. To conform, to be censored, to be colored in the lines, is to have lost my soul. You may as well strike me dead.
Ignorance may be bliss, as some say. But it is no sense of peace to me.
I’d rather be intelligent to my loss then ignorant to my defeat.
And we sit here, locked in, we are not losing. We must revolutionize our system. My words can not be the only thing fighting against this.
I cannot be the only noise buzzing in the ears of our adversaries.
All this is in my heart can be delivered onto the people unto us.
We need to have a voice, to rise up. Please, I implore you to make a change. Use your words make the point—use your voice to make the impact. Call me insane but I will do it again and again. I will fight against, I will love, I will laugh. I will howl whenever necessary and will be prepared for any judgment as a result.
We can obtain the keys to our freedom.
The choice being, do we fight or simply wait?