I’ve always needed to write – to think out loud across the page, agonize over the smallest turn of a phrase, edit the same stanza over and over until I’ve come as close as I can to perfection or abandoned it in favor of some fresher verse. But it wasn’t until my incarceration that I developed the corresponding need to be heard. Whereas before I was content with private journaling, with English as catharsis, now I required an audience, an energy to bounce my ideas off of. At the bottom of the social casserole, I suddenly needed assurance that I was worth something – on paper, at least.
So I met with fellow poets on the yard to share our prose aloud. I sought out prison creative writing programs and worked to start them where none existed. I found publication for my own writing and that of my peers. With the assistance of people like Buzz Alexander, Suzanne Gothard, Eric Gadzinski, Judith Tannenbaum, and others directly or indirectly involved with Michigan’s PCAP, I learned methods not only to refine my own writing, but also to help others improve their own.
Through forums created by prison arts programs (and a few willing publishers), I’ve been able to remain a part of the reality outside these fences by sharing my view from within them, and that connection has enabled – more than any other aspect of this experience – my development into a socially-mindful (I hope) human being.
Listen to an essay of Sean here.