Yesterday I read aloud the poetic notebook of Anna Kamienska, (“In That Great River: A Notebook,” June 2010) with seven men in the Razor Wire Poetry workshop at a nearby prison. The men were shaken to their roots because her words spoke of their world—the infinite incarcerated lapse of time—and made poetry a reality they could understand. I have gone to this prison for two decades, but it is a rare and holy moment when a poet breaks through the way Kamienska did. I tried to explain that her words were crafted in the context of an oppressive Polish government, but my talk was futile: they understood the arc of her testament—she spoke for them. These things we take for granted—that poetry might have a relevance in our lives—were lifted up yesterday, and for an hour and a half the men were freed to read something vital, searching, and precise. Thank you for running such profound testimony in the pages of Poetry.
virginia city, nevada