Celebrating Poetry, From the Outside In


Last Wednesday, in addition to rediscovering hope for our country and for democracy, much of the world discovered the power of the spoken word. Through the brilliant of Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman, we were able to be inspired by her words, as she recited “The Hill we Climb. ”

For some,  this might have been an introduction to the power of spoken word poetry. For others, it was a glorious validation of the power of an art form long cherished by youth poets, performance artists, and spoken word poets .  For the incarcerated writers who I teach, spoken word has long been a favored art form, an important artistic salvation.  As I wrote about my students in Words No Bars Can Hold and featured some of their work, I always regretted that I couldn’t render their voices on the page as they spoke their worlds.  Now, through the brilliance and artistry of Emily Baxter, their words are offered in a project called Seen, which is a collaboration of We Are All Criminals and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

I’d like to offer the works of two of the most accomplished spoken word artists I know, and invite you to  listen  to them read their words.



While you are there, please check out the work of some of the students who are featured in my book:

LeVon,  C. Fausto, Fong, and Zeke

In their own way, these resilient souls and gifted poets are heeding Amanda Gorman’s advice as she explains:

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.



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