As usual, this reporter is quite tardy in posting news of our most recent Public Reading of the San Quentin Wednesday Night Creative Writing Class on October 13. Though our audience was small, the attentive interest given to what each writer shared was significant.
An article in the San Quentin News will be out shortly and I will update then.
Meanwhile, click here for some lovely photos of the event by photographer Peter Merts.
Paths of Discovery is a new book collaboration by Larry Brewster and Peter Merts. Larry is a professor, author, and former dean who wrote a crucial and much-quoted article evaluating Arts-in-Corrections in 1983 and then a follow-up article in 2010. The book includes interviews with inmate-artists and ex-cons who participated in these prison arts programs. Larry’s compassionate and insightful attention to the issues of prisoners has been a great benefit to prisoners and society.
Peter, a fine art and documentary photographer, has generously given his time and talents for many years to the documentation of the work and creative process of inmate artists, as well as beautiful portraits of the artists themselves. In so doing he has provided some respect and legitimacy for this art and its creators and allowed their work to be shared much more broadly. Peter’s prison photos as well as his other gorgeous photography can be seen at www.petermerts.com. (and photos specifically of the Creative Writing class can be found here, here, here, and here.)
Both Larry and Peter have been wonderful friends and supporters of our Creative Writing class over the years.
This gorgeous book is available through CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/3916681.
Paths of Discovery: Art Practice and Its Impact in California Prisons tells the story in words and pictures of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women who found their own voices through self-examination and the discipline of an artistic process. The California Arts-in-Corrections program brought together inmate artists and artist-teachers to explore the world of fine art in its many forms; along the way, countless inmates discovered untapped skills, sensitivities, and the rewards of self-discipline.
Artistic ability is respected inside prison walls. Arts-in-Corrections empowered men and women to take control of their lives through creative expression in the visual arts, poetry, music and other fine arts. The mission of Arts-in-Corrections was to provide inmates with the highest quality instruction, delivered by successful, working artists – many of whom became role models and mentors to the inmates. The program was established in 1980 and sadly ended in 2010 – a victim of the state’s budget crisis. The program was proven to have significantly reduced institutional tension, violence and recidivism. By travelling with their teachers down paths of discovery, inmate artists were enabled to retain their humanity while doing time. Many of them learned to serve something more valuable than their sentences.
The photographs in this book show many of the inmate artists at work, and their finished products. Through interviews and poetry you will hear in their own voices how prison arts programming helped them transcend their prisoner ID numbers and identify as artists. This book documents the existence – inside the razor wire and bleak walls of prison – of some talented and sensitive artists who have found new paths of discovery through the artistic process.
Check out the latest short story by San Quentin Creative Writing student Ivan Skrblinski, “The Unexpected.” Ivan (aka Juan Haines) has written a very short piece worthy of a close read. Check it out!
Unexpected, The • Haines
There’s a new link to the left called New Stories by SQ Writers. Two stories have been posted there, and from time to time new stories will be posted.
Check out the stories by Rodney Scott and Micheal “Yahya” Cooke.
San Quentin’s Lower Yard by Ronnie Goodman
photo by Peter Merts
Due to severe limitations on the part of the keeper of this website, it was never reported here that renowned writer Luis Rodriguez visited the Brothers in Pen writing class in July. Luis shared some of his inspiring story about how writing helped him focus away from self-destruction and move towards wholeness. He has written poetry, essays, fiction, memoir, and has started a cultural center and small press in Los Angeles called Tia Chucha.
An enthralling storyteller, Luis responded to questions from the class with stories; he seemed like the kind of person who could tell tales late into the night and you’d suddenly realize it was 3 a.m. and you hadn’t even noticed it was late. He spoke with humor, humility and passion about his writing, and with his small press publishing company seeks to offer a place for new voices to be heard.
Luis has published eight books, including the international bestseller Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA. His most recent books include It Calls You Back, Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, and The Republic of East LA: Stories. He also has a CD of music and poetry called “My Name’s Not Rodriguez” from Dos Manos Records (CDbaby.com). Music of the Mill is a novel published in 2004 by Rayo Books/HarperCollins. Luis has received numerous awards for his literary and community work, including as one of fifty “Unsung Heroes of Compassion” from around the world, presented by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
We have not yet gotten the photo that was taken of Luis that day but it will be posted someday.
This should have been posted awhile ago… on May 14, 2012 one of the “Brothers in Pen,” Keshun “Daleadamown” Tate, who is now on the other side of the wall, was in Skid Row Studios in Los Angeles with Melvin Ishmael Johnson talking about our class and the work that is coming out of it, both in the anthologies and in the performances Daleadamown is creating. (He is second from the right in the photo.)
Mown and I were interviewed (I was on the phone), but the real good stuff was when Mown performed some of his work live at the end of the show. The interview is at the beginning and then after another segment you can hear Mown’s performance.
It was wonderful to hear the pieces again, and to feel Mown’s commitment to pressing forward with the work.
Check it out!
We will be adding a new feature to our site very soon–we will be making some of the writing currently being done in our creative writing class available here. Of course, all of the anthologies will continue to be available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/northblockpress but we thought we would also make some stories available for you to read here. Check back soon.
Also, several of the writers in our class also write for the San Quentin News, which is now available to read online. The SQ News covers both local and world news as well as news of specific interest to prisoners. If you’re interested in reading the news from a prisoner’s perspective, check out the SQ News. http://sanquentinnews.com/