Last evening I was attending a first literary event, called Incandesence, Burning Light of Sunfire Writers, at Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City, 45 miles south of Colorado Springs. The Sunfire Writers are the men in our weekly Sunfire Writers Workshop which I have facilitated for 10 years every Thursday from 1:30 to 3:30.
Last evening’s one hour event, in which 9 men, (offenders in prison official language) gave a stand up performance of poems, stories, memoirs and “writers manifestos” to a small audience of their fellow prisoners, and a video camera. They had spent months writing and rewriting and weeks preparing and rehearsing. Most of the men recited their work from memory; one was a 2500 word award winning short story, recited for 15 minutes, with excellence, from memory, by one of our best writers.
Big deal, huh? You bet it was. And for more than their courage and confidence to get up before their peers and be vulnerable, and share, their creativity, sensitivity, and intellectual prowess. A big deal also, because after ten years of my giving the workshop, the prison officials, with the great help of Captain Q., consented to supporting the program and allowing an audience of fellow prisoners to hear the writers.
Here is what I wrote to Captain Q., this morning:
“Late evening’s literary event was a sure success, most importantly because having an audience brings full circle the work the writers create. And that helps me to motivate them to work more diligently. Writing is a lonely profession, but we write alone to share with others. If there is no one to share with, writing becomes frustrating work in a vacuum; but with an audience — usually for us writers, through journals and literary magazines, also blogs — but the FCF Sunfire Writers do not have real access to them — most of the lit magazines now require submission of material through on-line Submit services; (the Internet is forbidden to inmates) so, knowing that from time to time, that they can have an audience, a live audience to hear and appreciate their work, makes their work fulfilled and meaningful, and helps the men feel appreciated, and more confident.
“Thank you for making it all possible, and know that the real value is more than a chance to perform, the real value will occur week after week, because of acceptance, and affirmation as writers, and with new confidence, the men will grow and evolve to being better writers and better persons.
“I am so proud of the Sunfire Writers.”
SO, with April as National Poetry Month, get out there, attend a slam, support or produce a poetry event, create an audience to give appreciation for and meaningful full-circle “payment” to your writers for all they create alone and need and want an audience with whom to share their work. And go to your local Independent Bookseller, and buy two books of poetry, one for yourself, and one to give away.