one and many revolutions

plants growing out of broken concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping its dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew from Concrete
This week, we read Nikki Giovanni’s “Revolutionary Dreams” and wrote our own revolutionary cries. In the poem, Giovanni remembers the gentleness of the natural revolution of simply being natural, naturally a woman, naturally herself. It is a revolution that is one and many at the same time, a choice each moment that changes the course of an entire life.

There were elements of our group last Thursday that came together as naturally as a seed opening to its own seedling. Other elements were as tough as concrete, trying to break through years of doubt and fear to hear each other and hear our own words. In working together to weave our words, we ran into the triumphs and challenges of making something as a group. But that is how truth emerges, through struggle and working together.

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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

a foundation to build on

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.Oprah Winfrey

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.Phylicia Rashad

Honestly, I’m not going to say it much better than the writing that follows. This week’s prompt was all about names, labels, the power of language to manifest reality. Eve Ensler reminded us of how words change us on a cellular level and Marilyn Krysl reminded us of the joy of simply saying words, speaking the names we’ve made. We discussed the power of the names we carry and the one heavy ones we were burdened with, what needs reinforcing and what needs sloughing off.

In the piece below, one writer discusses fear, vulnerability and transcending these limits through kindness and respect. In essence, we honor the names others’ choose for themselves and that those names represent and we generate freedom rather than seek it. We build a foundation from almost nothing and we live on. A magic happens.

Here, have magic:

The Foundation Off of Which We Build

Movement–this is a common theme brought to the forefront of my mind…speaking things into existence, essentially creating nothing from something. Words have power. And that power is gripping me like a vice. I have a constant urge to do something large, make an impact. I wonder how I can make my voice the hammer that break the glass of the box that is holding us inside. If I am a queen than it it true, I should treat myself as royalty, and as such, I hear, with respect and dignity. And with that being said I should treat others as if they are royalty. That would make an impact. Other might not understand it, but they would feel it. It would stir something in them, to find answers, to gain the knowledge. Imagine how perplexed you would be to have a stranger treat you as though you were made of gold. I like to think it would drive most to kindness. If that happens. Words will have created it.

They are a foundation off of which we build. There are endless possibilities, we need only grasp them. Why is it we see anything as unobtainable? I can’t just be a hopeless optimist. There must be passion in the hearts of the masses. We need to be fearless. And being fearless doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means that you were afraid, but did it anyway.



the last women alive

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.
-Proverbs 31:25

A woman is like a teabag, you cannot tell how strong she it until you put her in hot water. – Nancy Reagan

What if we were the last women left alive? What if it all went wrong–horseman and trumpets, flood, general annihilation, and the only building left in the world was the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility and we had to rebuild civilization with what was left? What would the new world know?

Below, you’ll read what. We asked that question last Thursday and we didn’t deny we all think about it. Those doors close behind you with a metal clench that resounds off the cinderblocks and you think, “What if these are the last wall I see? The last faces?” But you shrug it off, that fatalistic notion. We sit down and make a life for ourselves in that room. We assess, as a group, what we have, what it means to live, to think, to write, to be a woman, man, human.

This month is women’s history month so we’re focusing on what it means to carry around any aspect of the feminine. After I read the poem, these women set up trust faster than you can inflate a life raft and just about covered it – the loss, triumph, beauty, strength, vulnerability – the grit and gold of the feminine all lived for a couple hours in that room. It was more than enough, near enough to build a world on. You’ll see. Read on.

FOUND POEM – 3/12/15 Continue reading

an empty truth

All great truths begin as blasphemies.  – G.B. Shaw                            

The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it. – Clarence Darrow

As we close our unit on truth this month, I leave you with a reflection from one of our women below. In one of the stories we discussed, the narrator speaks of an empty truth. On the surface, the phrase seems like a contradiction, as though such a truth would be meaningless. But our group appreciated the phrase, reflected that such a truth is not meaningless but simple. There is often a plainness or clarity to the truths that endure.

But to achieve these truths and to view them as self-evident is a complex process. It requires engagement, risk, faith, all qualities and experience the women describe as vital to their growth within the walls of the prison. It is a process that must be lived for each truth to be embodied. Each of us almost have to act out the truths in our words and actions to understand them. Here, one of the writers reflects on this process and its role in expression.

Truth Telling

That is being true to yourself, searching, growing, and expressing yourself for you and no one else. If your following the crowd, you get lost and it can lead to soul-sickness. Walking up in a life you never envisioned. Conditions you have to deal with because your choices were not yours.

To be able to do that one must not be afraid. One must be their own spirit detective to find who they are to find meaning, satisfaction, and joy. As Janis Joplin sings “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” is an anthem of being true to one’s self. Continue reading