annual appeal

rise TD

art by TD

‘I rise to be a better me,’ CP,
wiVT participant

Like Maya Angelou, wiVT writers  at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility rise from their pain, their fear, their history. Last month, 25 community guests witnessed their voices raised with determination:

They’re taken my true meaning,
the light that lives in me
eclipsed by ugly rhetoric …

I sit, I burn, I crumble.
Still, like dust, I rise.
I rise to be a better me …

Our writers welcome the weekly space for engagement, reflection, comfort, healing. Their writing transforms personal suffering into shared experience. As they make meaning of their lives, they learn skills — accountability, respect, confidence — that help re-entry and re-integration into their communities upon release. By sharing their stories, they help you understand who they are, how prison impacts their lives — and how you impact them.

WON’T YOU PLEASE RISE TO SUPPORT THEM

WITH YOUR GENEROUS GIFT TODAY?
Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated toward our goal
of $12,000 and is fully tax-deductible.
Please make your check payable to SBCJC – wiVT
19 Gregory Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403
YOUR GIFT WILL HELP PROVIDE:
  • weekly skill- and community-building
  • community education via our writers’ blog
  • publication of participant work and public readings
  • team training for program integrity and uniqueness
  • encouragement to each writer to rise into their best self
With heartfelt thanks to ALL who support our mission to ‘bring incarcerated women’s words from inside – out.’
swb copy
Sarah W. Bartlett, MA, Founding Co-Director

Meghan Reynolds, MFA, Co-Director

Melissa Pasanen, Kristin Brownlow, Kassie Tibbott, Kathryn Baudreau, Tobe Zalinger, Dorsey Naylor, program assistants.

P.S. This year we started two ‘writing outside’ groups for justice-involved women in South Burlington and Randolph. W VT College of Fine Arts intern has devoted the fall to gathering writings from the past few years for LIFELINES, which we plan to publish in 2018 . Thank you, Bianca!! Stay tuned for publication details as they unfold.

Thanks to generous individual support from you, our donors; grants from Bari and Peter Dreissigacker, The Richard E. and Deborah L.Tarrant Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, Inc. and Serena Foundation; and our home organization, South Burlington Community Justice Center (SB CJC), we are able to continue providing this unique program to Vermont’s incarcerated women.

hope

“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.”

As we enter the season of Advent, there is little to cheer on women incarcerated at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. Waiting and preparation are what their time is made of; and for many of them, the hope that originally wove through the fabric of time has simply worn thin.

Holidays can be a particularly tough time inside, as they remind us of family closeness and the warmth of special traditions. Yet in spite of all that seems to separate us from one another, our weekly opportunity to sit together, pen our thoughts and share them openly brings a measure of relief, of closeness … even of hope.

A sampling of the writing from this week follows, written by the artists whose work appears above:

HOPE

Hope has no goddamned wings. Perhaps she had them once, a shining Christmas angel full-feathered. Now she staggers wet cobblestones dripping bloody stumps, stray feathers mutilated with her blood. She weeps and wails, sorry for herself or sorry for me. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t wear a sparkling samite sheath. She wears tattered rags, too worn and stained to be black, too mottled to be gray. Her muddy petticoat bares torn lace, my Freudian slip showing. Hope has no goddamned wings. Her feet bleed with every halting step, the mean and bitter earth cutting and snatching, tearing and rending tender, once-pristine feet. Hope has no goddamned wings. She was shot down long ago, if she ever flew at all on wings made of the dreams of fools. Hope has no goddamned wings. I’ve never seen her face shining with holy light, only wet with sweat and tears, folded like a Japanese fan with effort. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t sing a victory tune. She compels me on with a fucking dirge – mine – if I don’t work harder, faster, longer, better … mine, if I’m lucky. Hope has no goddamned wings.

MR

***

Continue reading

a hard remembering

Hampton III Gallery

 Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with  us. – Oscar Wilde

 Memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape. – Janet Fitch

November is a time for memories. Some are   easy and some are not. We gather around tables   or feel the tug of past meals in our guts. We repeat what we are grateful for and hear the faint echo of what we are not grateful for, that we would let fall away from us like leaves.

In this week’s group, we examined all of it. Some writers wrote about who they missed most or who they missed least. We talked through the scents and smells of our memories, how they all have the power to pull us back in time.

In the pieces below, you will read all these perspectives.

RAIN

The rain, the start before the storm,
the high before the low,
the blue sky to the dark cries.

The nights you could not see my cries inside,
missing the nights we held each other tight,

the nights the drops fell from my face,
thinking about our last embrace,

the rain from the bright blue skies,
no longer is their hurt in my eyes.

No longer do I need your embrace.
The rain has done, erased.
LB Continue reading

our november

theviennasecession.com

There is October in every November and there is November in every December! All seasons melted in each other’s life! ― Mehmet Murat ildan

I have come to regard November as the older, harder man’s October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer’s death as winter tightens its grip. – Henry Rollins

After a long conversation this fall concerning the personal and political, we have returned to more seasonal subjects, sharpening our writing skills by staying in the present moment, acutely describing what we see, and letting our minds flood with names and memories.

We read, “November for Beginners” by the indomitable and brilliant Rita Dove though, when it comes to November, no one in our circle this week is a beginner. We explored what we let the world call us and what we call this time. We discussed traditions and weather patterns and we taught each other new words for ice and whisper (rime, susurration).

In the pieces below, you will read true and personal accounts of names and seasons, each more personal than the next. Read all the way to the end and you will be rewarded by this week’s found poem – all our words woven together to leave our impression behind, a mirrored impression of what November has done for us.

WEEZY

My mother’s name is Dawn.
My father’s name is Larry.
My sister Megan was born in 1990.
I was born October 1991.
My father named me Katelyn
after his oldest brother Clayton.
My middle name Louise after my great grandma.
My daddy called me Weezy.
He would pick me up in his arms
and say, “Pop goes my Weezy.”
The smile was on his face
was the highlight of all my days,
‘til one day mom took me away.
I was so broken,
so much self-loathing,
a confused 7-year-old,
going through the emotions:
betrayal, abandonment, fear, loneliness.
What can I say? Daddy was my king
and I his princess.
Lord knows I loved him so very much.
He tried to be there for me.
Mom made things so difficult,
always putting me in the middle,
as my father faded from my life.
No one called me Weezy anymore.
And as I grew into my teenage self,
people took to calling me Katie in its place.
No one in high school really liked me.
I was angry all the time,
would be a bitch to guys.
I didn’t want to be bothered.
I just wanted to left alone to the sorrow inside
to drown in the pool of anger surrounding me.
I started cutting at age 16.
By 18 I was dating a guy who beat me
and cheated on me!
He called me Kate.
In now 26,
my father died when I was 19.
Suicide, my mother and I don’t really talk
and my sister and I grew apart.
My brother lives at home still at age 21.
Wow,
I had a kid at 21,
didn’t want to be a mom.
The father of my kid was extremely boring,
so I left him for my ex
who I never got over to begin with.
He calls me Katelynn,
treats me like a woman.
I tied my soul to this man
when I was 24 years old.
He makes me better,
but here I am in trouble,
incarcerated for letting this anger control me.
I wonder if I’ll ever fully recover,
probably not.
All I can do is go on with life,
try to be better,
for my husband and child!

KS Continue reading

the thinning veil

Kate Forsyth

The holy day of Samhain is, in the Celtic tradition, the first day of winter: a time of sacrifice, divination for the New Year, communion with the dead, of endings and rest. On this single night (Oct. 31), the world of spirits, ancestors and mortals might meet. Within the mythic cycle of the Goddess as Crone, she deepens into herself and enters the dreamtime, the place between the worlds where past, present, and future exist simultaneously. The season invites you to enter a place of stillness and simply be where you are: not moving forward or backward but utterly present, suspended in the space between past and future. It is here that you may hear her voice in the crackling fire, rain and wind…Review the year that has passed with introspection and retrospection. Commune with your ancestors and honor your beloved dead…What do you leave behind in the year that has passed, and what do you wish to take with you? How will you prepare to listen to the Old Wise One within? –Ruth Barrett, Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries

During this season, the veil is said to thin between this world and the next. As we came together to discuss and write about the traditions of Samhain, Halloween, and Dia de Los Muertos, the veil between all of us thinned. We wrote verbal altars to those who have passed and it struck a chord in all of us. The intensity of what rose in our feelings was reflected in the written work and strengthened our circle.

In the writings below, you will see the power  in what was written and join the circle with us.

THE VEIL

I’m not ready for an altar. You twitched the veil and let me glimpse the other side. A resurrection of smoke, a liquid pooling of silk, they sway in this impossible breeze, flutter, billow…what emerges? Is that your hand, or the hand of an incomprehensibly foreign stranger to these shores, a Neverwas, a Neverborn? Should death lie between us forever, a charm too mighty to cross with any leap, too far for you to come back to me, or does a bridge exist on this one day, a spider’s thread, just strong enough to bear your thistledown soul? Is that you – can I feel you with me? Is that hand yours, a beacon in my long darkness, or is that clutching grasp meant to steal what little is left of my soul, to drag me down to the hell others have long since wished me to? What lies beyond? Those who picture blessing and angels offer none to me, not even mine. The veil sways, beckoning me closer. Can I hear your voice if I press just my ear against it? Dare I chance it?

I sit back, away, and I sigh. I’ll let the endless days pass. I’ll wait. I’ll sit through all the nights. I’ll wait. I’ll watch the cycle of the seasons and age writing its tale across my skin. I’ll wait. I’ll wait to see you, touch you, hear you. You’re safe where you are and I have many dangerous roads to walk and I must never shirk my duty. Watch me, watch me, remember what you see. I expect to hear all about it when next we meet. I’ll hear your merry laugh, you’ll pat my cheek and say, “You sure were silly, but you made it through that day.”

MR

***
THE LOVE OF HONOR

Flowers, feast, love, and skulls,
all of which come alive
to honor all who have been taken from our lives.
How the flowers and gifts lie upon the graves,
the rituals and spells which bring all
back to our lives for these few special days.
Parties, parades, flowers, and graves: this
is how we honor these special days.

LB Continue reading