Poetry by its very nature depends upon the experiences of individuals; the pain, anguish or delirious joy of a moment in time that can be captured and immortalized in the written or spoken word. Throughout history, poets give voice to such aspects and serve to draw attention to our own feelings and perceptions as well as often drawing attention to larger, social issues. The plight of those who go to prison and of those they leave behind is a more unusual yet no less potent source of material. Some of the most touching and illuminating expressions you will ever read come from the unique experiences these inmates and their families have endured. Whether you feel sympathy or not for any of their plights, it is hard to refute the strength of the writing that has at various times been produced, not for fame or fortune but the purest intent of self-expression. The true and concise number of individuals and families variously affected by incarceration is unknown, but the following poets are a random selection that highlights the talent and also the enormous tragedy of their situations.
Only Memories, a poem by Angela Pilant published in 2010, explores the anguish felt when an inmate cannot be there for some innocent family member who is suffering. In this instance the death of a family member from cancer that she could only imagine from her cell, brought home the impact the poor choices can have upon your life and of those you love.
Much of what occupies the thoughts of those who have too much time on their hands is the separation from loved ones and what they are missing out on. The Game by Susan Christensen, published in 2008, tells of a woman separated from her boyfriend because he has been sent to jail. It highlights the sadness and anguish and loss that those on the outside must endure through no fault of their own. The sentence that the inmates serve is equally endured by those who faithfully wait for them on the outside, often with little or no sympathy from community around them. Similarly, other poems by the same writer such as I Cry focus on the same theme of loss and emotional hardship for those left behind and all have a sensitive quality that make them compelling.
Beautiful in its simplicity is the poem Please Don’t Cry, Mi Nina written by Luis Verduzco and published in 2009. The heartfelt expressions of a father to his little daughter upon going to prison are both touching and brave. Who can know the impact such separation will have on their relationship and that of an entire family, but his loving expressions and gentle style speak of hope and the future.
Poetry from any source is a wonderful tool for expression for the writer and the means of connecting to other worlds and lifestyles for the reader. The poetry born out of incarceration and those affected by it can be truly moving and inspiring to us all!