Tuesday, January 31, 2017
The sun shone in under the roof over the open-air dining area at the bar. It was one of those salad days in Arizona: January cool, but desert warm in the sun, aching blue sky, ruddy cheeks, sexy smiles. I faced those who had gathered to better see their faces as I went over the developments in the Prison Writing Project. A film-maker from Hungary with piercing green eyes drilled her gaze into me, a reporter from the SBS newsletter took notes, the head of the English Department looked over the top of his IPA and listened with real focus, grad students mused, under-grads sat outside the inner circle, my mentor took in the scene. I talked up the reasons for pushing ahead with both the workshops and a literature course at the prison. Heads nodded. There was much to digest: creativity, rehabilitation, humanity, rising rates of detention, the flaws and casualties of the criminal justice, mass-incarceration, prison-industrial complex. I had to pinch myself. Was this really happening? Who was this person talking to this august gathering? Certainly not bitchy little old, self-defeating me. The beers were tall and cold, the sun welcome, the music loud, the world spinning in ways I could never predict. I have no idea where this is going or what might happen. The ride is wild, wonder-filled. Faces appear before me. Men waiting, hoping that someone, somewhere, might hear their voices, the ones they are honing to perfect pitch.