Poetry is making things happen! Installment #1 (Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project)
We’re nearly a week into National Poetry Month. Poems, poems, everywhere. Also economic chaos, heightened criminal activity, catastrophic climate change…and all the other worrying realities of our time. This world is full of real-time hard times. How can poetry make it better?
April is a month of heightened awareness. In addition to National Poetry Month, April is also Heartworm Awareness Month, National Pet First Aid Awareness Month, Mathematics Awareness Month, Sexual Assualt Awareness Month, STD Awareness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Autism Awareness Month, National Donate Life Month… I’m sure there’s plenty more to be aware of, but, honestly, I’m already overwhelmed by this list of worthy causes.
Against such pressing issues, what use is poetry?
With that question in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate several of this month’s posts to organizations and individuals whose work proves that poetry really can make a difference in our world.
Today, I want to talk about the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, a program “founded on the principle that all people can benefit from quality and sustained experiences in the arts and humanities.”
According to their website: “APAEP grew from one poet teaching in one prison, to a pool of more than 35 writers, artists, scholars and visiting writers teaching in twelve correctional facilities in Alabama. Course offerings have grown from poetry and creative writing to Southern literature, photography, African-American literature, Alabama history, drawing and other art classes.”
One of the goals of the project is to develop the general libraries of the 17 Alabama prisons in which it is active. APAEP accepts donations including older edition textbooks and slightly damaged books that would not otherwise be sold. Since 2001, over 14,000 volumes have been made accessible to the 30,000 men and women incarcerated in the state of Alabama.
According to one beneficiary of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project: "I, quite simply, have fallen in love with writing . . . The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project has given me the opportunity of a lifetime. "
Donors include Alice James Books, BOA Editions, Copper Canyon Press, The Feminist Press, Natural Bridge, Sarabande Books, Lotus Blooms Journal, Ausable Press, Five Points, Poets & Writers and many more. If you or your press would like to find out more about becoming involved in this worthwhile venture, visit the APAEP website here.
The writer and activist Audre Lorde once wrote: “…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, made first into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” I applaud the APAEP for helping to make poetry available to 30,000 Alabamans who otherwise might not have access to this powerful and positive mode of expression and survival.
Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Trophic...