Correspondence with my prison pen pal “Conway” has been irregular this spring because of the ever-shifting regulations that can cause mail to be blocked without warning. His latest letter shows that he continues to take refuge in his art and to help others do the same.
Several of his poems have just been published in “Paper Thin Walls”, a magazine produced by the Artist Pen-Pal Mutual Aid Project. This project is one of the social justice initiatives from the BuildingBloc Arts Collective, which is also sponsoring a touring exhibit of prisoners’ art, titled “Our Dreams Don’t Fit in Your Cages”. From their website:
BuildingBloc is a collective of artists dedicated to using art to explore
the social inequalities in our society. Through experimentation,
collaboration, and performance, we inform, provoke, and inspire ourselves
and our audiences. We aim to spark dialogue, to create and sustain
relationships between artists and community organizations, to support
existing struggles for social justice, and to erase the boundaries between
art and activism.
In a letter I sent Conway in March, I confided my concerns about a friend in trouble, and my frustration that I couldn’t do more to help her: “I wrote a poem about it this morning but poetry is empty compared to taking action in the world. Or is it? Is poetry second-rate action, the last resort of the powerless, or does it create change?”
His response, in this month’s letter:
I believe that as a blossoming poet myself, I can faithfully say that (for sure) each poem that I write. Creates a change in my growth & understanding of this world and even if Nobody ever reads these scratchings that I’ve tried to conceive; painting pictures with words. That at least I have taught myself to define this world in this moment, and basically that is my first duty. To understand my place and to act accordingly with my fellow travelers.
Once more, my long-distance friendship with Conway has brought me back to my core mission. Options are distracting. When there’s no motive for writing except soul-survival, one sees that this is the motive that breathes life into poetry, the one truly essential objective.
When, one jealous Moon
gathered its courage (prepared to die)
refused to share anymore, twilight Sky.
It was a last ditch-
another early, end of things.
by a star’s bright glow
another globe was caught up
before it really could know.
Like a thief contesting desire
lurking through church
to own everlasting fire.
While another Heart, fell from its perch
unclad night slept fulfilled–
nuzzling against the hurdles
of squandered adolescence.
Despite this Roaring avalanche
there was not a sound
or whimpering illusion
to be swept along.
No one to miss
or hear the splendor,
the desperate kiss of dawn.
So; In the mornings mist
among abundant bird’song,
this sacrifice too, was forgotten.
The face of a Soul disgraced
sufferingly stares, beyond vanishing sight
trembling through tonight.
As that once flawless jewel
nothing; Nothing at all…