national poetry month

national poetry month

“To create art with all the passion in one’s soul is to live art with all the beauty in one’s heart.”
Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

“The poet is the priest of the invisible.” — Wallace Stevens, from Opus Posthumous.

“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.” — Paul Engle, from an article in The New York Times.

There is a lot to celebrate because it is national poetry month. Poetry is the main mode we study, examine, and explore when writing on the inside. We share a poem every week, we teach poetic forms, and, most often, our writers create pieces that, between line break, stanza break, deliberate word choice, and potency of image, are more poetry than prose. Sure, we attend to structure but mostly, poetry works on the inside because of the scope. Poetry is broad in a small space. Poetry is a method of connecting with one another in a way that is nonviolent.

Know that we work is a small space. We have a gathering of tables in a spare computer room. We circle up with stacks of blank paper and a spare concrete and consistent agenda. We have spare, clear prompts: what would the perfect poem sound like? What do you use your voice for? There’s freedom in that spareness that allows our minds to roam into themselves and it is up to each of us to untangle our own abundant messes, to make our invisible churches visible.

In the space below, you will see the dangerous and gentle romps made using almost nothing to access everything. We write poetry because poetry is generous and it models generosity that we offer each other. Each writer has a page and is given the page of each other’s empty ear. We make poetry and then we listen. Now you may too.


Trying to write a poem from the bottom of my heart
and I can’t figure out the best place to start.
I found a million and one reasons to spill out I-love-yous,
had to come up with a million more to convince you that it’s true.
Nothing’s at face value, something always lies beneath.
It looks like heaven but you swear you feel hell’s heat.
Pretty as a butterfly just drifting in the wind.
Chase it to the middle of nowhere, find out that it brings
apples galore up at the tip top of that age old tree.
It looks so enticing but there’s so much more that you can’t see.
You got caught in a trap more than a time or two.
At one point in your life you didn’t think before you do.
But lessons in life are harsh and now look who pays the price
cause anytime I speak you put my head in a vice.
Look into my eyes and me – that spark is missing staring out
into a meadow the sun makes it all glisten.
Do you see it as an illusion, the toughest nut to crack?
Let me tell you something – these blue skies won’t fade to black.
No dark clouds in the distance, no fury in the wind,
the only part you fail to see is the sweetness in the sin.
An island on the ocean peaceful bliss, serenity,
after days it gets so lonely more like lost away at sea.
I guess that’s just what happens when that last coating peels away,
underneath is rotting wood ugly of an array.
This is the exception to most of life’s mysteries.
Take a chance just this one time.
The past is history.



Combat: I understand you perfectly, daring us to stay mad.

Took me a long time to really understand myself and to take a hard, long look and peel back the layers of hurt and pain that I just let turn into anger and resentment, and started to realize that it’s okay to feel the emotions and not let them dictate an angry soul. No longer combat, whether physical or mental and against myself or another being was all I knew and, as I sit here in a place I can’t escape, am forced to look at the one thing that truly matters while here and that’s me. Somehow I feel different, like this place is daring me to stay mad, almost provoking me to stay the person I have known for so long but I am aware of the good qualities I possess and the choice in roads to take and I’m choosing the harder road and leading myself back to life and freedom, am trying to work on forgiveness and letting the past be the past and once resentment has loosened its grasp on my heart and soul, not only will I be free from this place but am working towards mental freedom, so it is I that I understand perfectly.




Where do you begin to find the perfect poem?
What would the perfect poem begin to look and sound like?
I can’t tell you, that’s for sure
but it’s got my mind in an uproar
like little children doing chores
as the words to this perfect poem lay
all across this lonely floor
unaware if I am placing the utter of words
in a sentence that makes sense
as I ramble on I start to lose myself
in my own thought.


inside national poetry month

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.  Continue reading