Failure to Protect the Rights of Prisoners to Access Books

PEN America nonprofit logo courtesy of Mltellman – under
CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

“One 2013 study found that people who participate in correctional education programs while incarcerated had a 43 percent lower odds recidivating than those who did not.To Make Prisons “Safer,” Some Are Banning . . . Books, Tariro Mzezewa, NY Times

Maryland’s statewide policy limiting direct access to books represents a failure to protect the right to read for thousands of incarcerated individuals, PEN America said in a statement on Tuesday.

On May 27, the Washington Post reported that Maryland prison officials recently imposed a new policy prohibiting people in prison from directly receiving books from any source other than two prison-approved vendors, Books & Things and Edward R. Hamilton. The restrictions block people in prison from receiving literature directly from friends or family members or from online retailers. The new restrictions prevent people in prison from buying books that are sold at cheaper prices from other online retailers, or from buying books that are simply not available in the two vendors’ catalogs. There are approximately 20,000 people in Maryland state prisons.

Prison officials reportedly implemented the policy as a measure to reduce the trafficking of drugs, most notably the medication Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone, used to treat addition to opioids); however, prison officials were reportedly unable to answer how many strips of seized Suboxone had been found hidden in books in 2017 or 2018.

“While we respect that prison officials have an obligation to keep their prisons drug-free, this policy is misguided and unwise,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “As a result of this policy, thousands of people in prison now have their access to reading and educational materials primarily dictated by the offerings of just two companies. Even with the presence of prison libraries, it’s clear that this represents a serious blow to the right to read in Maryland prisons. The policy should be rescinded and a solution found that does not restrict access to books for incarcerated individuals.”

Earlier this year, PEN America joined prison reform and civil liberties groups in voicing opposition to policies in New York State prisons and in federal prisons that similarly aimed to implement an ‘approved-vendor-only’ system for book delivery to prisons. Both policies have since been rescinded.

PEN America has run a national prison writing program for over 40 years, including an annual Prison Writing Contest available to anyone incarcerated in a federal, state, or county prison. Under this policy, PEN America would be barred from directly sending people in prison copies of its Handbook for Writers in Prison, a detailed guide to writing designed specifically for writers in prison.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organizaton champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.



the hanged man, a poem … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

The Hanged Man card, Rider-Waite tarot deck

One iced night mom took his hand
and led the boy to a no man’s land
And in the darkness of that night,
he came to know himself as blight

Born upside-down and on a tether,
no turned up way to make him clever
Both heart and memory came away
with jilted mom on that crazed day

Excess baggage he seemed to be,
surviving much-grudged care you see
Imagined poems filled his dreams,
soulful skimming of raw life’s cream

On winds of change other blows,
but joys embedded he has known
And in the end life’s still worthwhile
Life was precious to man and child

Upside-down fuels such rare view,
and capsized life is a lonely pew
But when time came to make a close,
only sweetness from a thornless rose

I was intrigued by this gracious man’s history: a breech birth and coincidentally his Tarot birth card was the hanging man, illegitimate, difficult life but no victim mentality, and a graceful acceptance of death when the time came. I’ve no idea why this came out rhymed. As I may have mentioned before, I don’t care for rhymed poetry and rarely write it.

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserve; illustration is in the public domain

“Jung looked upon the situation pictured in the hanged-man as an invitation to plumb new depths of being – a challenge rather than a punishment. ‘For the unconscious always tries to produce an impossible situation in order to force the individual to bring out his very best. Otherwise one stops short of one’s best, one is not complete, one does not realize oneself. What is needed is an impossible situation where one has to renounce one’s own will and one’s own wit and do nothing but trust to the impersonal power of growth and development.'” Jung andTarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Not everyone is delivered wrong-way into the roiling sea of life, but everyone is delivered into challenging situations at one time or another. Every day we meet heroic people who have overcome adverse circumstances or lived with them gracefully. Remarkable! Some people never cease to amaze.  Who do you find admirable and why? Write a homage. Tell us in your poetry that you post in the comments section or via link/s to the poem/s on your blog.

All poems submitted on theme will be published here next Tuesday. Deadline is Monday evening, June 4, 8 p.m. PDT. If this is your first time participating in Wednesday Writing Prompt, please be sure to post your poem or link in the comments section but send your bio and photo to to be used by way of intro to readers … and me!  🙂

All are encouraged to join in Wednesday Writing Prompt to exercise their writing muscle and make new poet friends.


“The Dream of a Poet” … and other responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

“Whereas story is processed in the mind in a straightforward manner, poetry bypasses rational thought and goes straight to the limbic system and lights it up like a brushfire. It’s the crack cocaine of the literary world.” Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels

Where does your poetry come from? How do you receive it?  That was the essential prompt for last Wednesday, The Witching Hour, May 23, 2018. What a fun and fine response. Clearly almost all of us think there is something rather magical or mystical happening.  So here today, I’m delighted to share the work of old and new friends with their old and new poems, sometimes connected to the theme by a slight silken thread and that’s okay. All good. I know you’ll enjoy yourselves as much as I have.

Thanks to poets John Anstie, Paul Brookes, Marta Pombo Sallés,  Frank McMahan and Anjum Wasim Dar and a warm welcome to Neeldip. Be sure to visit these poets and get to know them. Links to their sites are included. If they have no blog or website, you might catch up with them on Facebook. Congrats to our prolific Paul who keeps those chapbooks and collections coming at a breathless rate. Bravo!

Please do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt.

A Fairy in Disguise

Meadows turned to mist even the azure’s smiled,
lights were blinded till a distant mile,
when she walked down the morning aisle.

Fireflies were her companion when she sang along nightangles,
Moonlight was her curtain,
As she strolled through the shrouded forest,
Midst the starry fountain.

© 2018, Neeldip (Neeldip1998)


Neeldip has sent a bio yet, but when he does, I will post it.  Meanwhile he was invited in by Mart Pombo Salés. She said to him, “Beautifully written. Love how you recreate this mysterious atmosphere in the world of fairies and goblins. This is also the world of the Muse that whispers something in the poet’s ear. Is this why you say “A Fairy In Disguise”? Your poem carries something similar to a mystical experience. The ending is very powerful with the “starry fountain”. Isn’t that the fountain of life and inspiration? I think it would be perfect for the next Wednesday Prompt … ”

The Dream of a Poet

I woke up with a start some time ago;
A very familiar path;
from sleep infused, in semiconscious state,
with dreams of the unpleasant,
into a slow and rude awakening.

Was it a mystery magician or
con artist, the evil one,
who managed to deprive me of my freedom;
usurp my own free will;
transport me where I never want to go.

And then, somehow it dawned on me that I,
apropos my own illusion,
had written words that weren’t exactly true?
I’m not sure how this is…
But missive written. For poets. How to write!


The anti-hero in my fated dream
insisted I capitulate
and turn my trade to more constructive end
by which it sought the truth
of why I wish to make my dreams come true.

It asked me who I thought I was and then,
without so much as by
your leave, it pulled me back into oblivion.
It also didn’t hear me
when my stentorian protest made no sound.

It was a vision; a reverie that spoke
of fantasies; woolgathering.
It is, in truth, as truth is meant to be
none other than my conscience,
speaking of the will to write and dream.

If answer there is one, I do not know;
so often out of our control.
The only thing I have to say is this:
it’s always up to you.
Only you can judge what’s best… for you.

By your own best devices, you don’t need
to take advice from where
there is no guidance better than your own
…save rules, and even they
can be ignored once you have mastered them.

© 2012, John Anstie (My Poetry Library)

Ash And Paper

summer mornings my fire snuffed.

No flaming voice.

Only a word in your head.

Dream of spelt and salt cake I fire for you, and before you can seek future from way I burn clean my fireplace, clear your head.

Old ash and cinders block gust makes for poor-burning, makes for poor-thinking prepare my gob for my tongues my gob packed with ash piled ash in my grate piled ash in my head crumbles like walls from incendiaried homes

stop wandering off when I’m talking to you!

ash up against my fire-bars makes them overheat makes you overthink
so they sag and “burn through” make me virginal something to focus on something for focus recall collecting ears of spelt in reaper’s baskets

I said stop wandering!

rake remains of my last fire the last fire between my temples so ash falls through my grate train steam in your nostrils pick-off the cinders for re-use.

My lightweight dark lumps, not my powdery un-burnable pieces of roasted shale my exhausted voice.

Clear my fire-bars of small cinders, clear all my ash, clear all the dead, dry bones out of my head recall the crush, grind
then roast the ears of spelt, yeasty like a pint of beer

Concentrate! You are lighting me fill my gob

with dry, unfinished paper cheap-newsprint not glossy magazine-print.
screw sheets into rough balls packed into this brain space not too tight, but not too loose.

Keep the paper open & crinkly don’t pack paper into hard nuggets, make them roughly spherical.

Should cover my grate with plenty of space to allow gust to blow away, focus these eyes, only one layer, as my tongues lick paper down everything on top will drop, roof falling in around my ears leave it at a couple of inches. Recall salt prepared pound crystals from brine
from a salt pan in a mortar, pack and inhale seafret. Cut lump with an iron saw.

I’ll not tell you again!

paper is to ignite the wood (next)

the next thought only enough, too much will clog fire-bars cause stack-collapse as your paper doesn’t burn well, stuff a loose sheet under my grate under my thoughts light it let my little tongues loose stuff sheets underneath burn them recall forbidden reading, books in flame, memories of things not spoken discarded ideas

I can be dangerous!

break up my ash with a poker. Recall stir of salt and spelt into carried spring water pure never touched the ground into meal that must be rested my pulped treeflesh.

I will lick away a support for my woodflesh. I lick away a flicker of an idea, a first layer
of contemplation.

(From “The Headpoke And Firewedding”, (Alien Buddha Press, 2017)

© 2017, Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


my thought needs substance crouched supplicant
to our hearthmind layer my gob can’t light my coal with paper my wood layer is for coal as my paper is for wood layer on my paper small pieces of wood (kindling) watch for splinters embed in your fingers for all day pain or a heated steel pin to remove. Carefully make a wooden pallet a raft of images on balled up paperwaves support my coal so imagination flares as I burn to speak.

Pray raft holds. Criss-cross wood, a cohesive structure.
You’re making my fireplace,
My head layered.

My gob layered.

Geology reversed.
Paper from trees. Dead trees made coal graduations of image, thought and idea.

When paper gone hold stays, mixture of thick and thin considerations.

Thin ideas burn easily, produce heat, thick sustains in depth delights my imaginations coal

(From “The Headpoke And Firewedding, Alien Buddha Press, 2017)

© 2017, Paul Brookes  (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


like wood is my imagination solidified sunblaze trapped voices, stories trapped build a pile of imagination on top of my wood-raft stuffed into my gob have a nice pile in middle.


Choose pieces too small air-flow round my head restrict visuals. I cannot breathe. Choose pieces too big don’t get enough licking heat from the wood. Ignite my images , ensure fire-front removed for maximum air-flow, ignite the paper from underneath, ignite heads images underneath.


in multiple places – get as much litlick quickly as possible, heat feeds between ignition points

if you will not put your mind on me I’ll burn your house down my water in the wood coal makes sulphuric acid lick surface off your brick funnel .
Images sear . Imagination needs time, fire blaze, cornfield stubble, while wood and paper left, this cellulosefuel heats imagination -fire to self-sustain your hard images buried deep, pressured become harder, blacker used in locomotives, steam ships, pitsweat, minehacked proppedimages your soft images nearer surface browner nostalgic soft focus biscuit tin tender.
Imagination produces smoke and tar when heated only,
when “dried out” get red-hot carbon fire makes imagination so hot. Recall tar melting on roads in sunblaze, sticks to soles coal tar soap photosynthesizes calls back its days as a plant.

I can be dangerous!

once my fire lit poke gently, release ash, break-up images stuck together by tar sticky mind coagulate.

Arrange cinders around the edge, add more images around fires periphery around

minds periphery. Don’t throw a bucket of imagination on my flametongue.

Always put a bit at edges or in middle. Images poked.
Poke my licking.
so ash falls through firebars so ash fall through the head.

Lift my burning images, ensure ash removed from under fire bars.

Imagination needs time to warm up.
Don’t smother with cold-images.
Kill lovely heat.
Longer to burn up. Pile it up around the edges, when it starts burning: poke and rake it into centre gradually.

When lit you give me a voice, a gob and tongues. Listen to my stories, record my voices, divine futures from decay of food thrown on me.

How virgin cakes of salt and spelt bake towards decay in heat tongueflicked wild jig of ideas before I ashreturn lose my tongues.

(From “The Headpoke And Firewedding, Alien Buddha Press, 2017)

© 2017, Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


Who knows where they have come from? No
summer rains to fill the limestone
caverns, no spring time residue
and yet the tongues of water spread
in new directions,loosestrife by
the water’s edge; and willow herb.

Across a once-ploughed field,
mineral insinuation
feeding the tangled hedgerows and
forcing the flush of hawthorn’s white.

Folded in dew, summer might bring berries;
fieldfare and redwing on winter’s winds.

(Seven Springs is a real place just north of us which feeds the River Churn that runs past my allotment and through the middle of town. So…)

© 2018, Frank McMahan

Tree 1

I Just Met a Turtle

I just met a turtle in the park.

It was on the way

Not where its mates

Usually are,

Near the lake


It was solitary.

I figured out it spoke

To me.

Told me to slow down.

And so I sat

As words began to dance

In flight

Carrying a smell of pine trees,

Rosemary and lavender.

Like butterfly wings

Fluttering in the wind

They intertwined

And slowly began

To land on my paper

One by one.

I pulled my thread,

Took the needle

And began to sow

One after the other.

A word weaver

Just like my friend


And all the others.

I just met a turtle.

© 2018, poem and illustration, Marta Pombo Sallés (Moments)

Fog in San Francisco2

Plurilingual (English and Catalan versions)


You throw the words up into the sky,

words are Wörter in German

and the sky is called der Himmel,

while du wirfst means you throw.

So this line in German says:

Du wirfst die Wörter in den Himmel.

Your words float up in the sky

like dancing pearls in the horizon,

which in the Catalan language reads:

Perles dansants en l’horitzó.

Or if you prefer it in Spanish:

Perlas danzantes en el horizonte.

And as the pearls are dancing

there is a new dawn of creation:

Kreation, creació and creación,

in German, Catalan and Spanish.

A new dawn of creation

offers you its magic infinity:

Magische Unendlichkeit.

Màgica infinitud.

Mágica infinitud.

Amid the sea and the wind

you feel the cadence of their swing:

Die Kadenz, la cadència and la cadencia.

Words light the flaming eyes

of your most wanted dreams:

The flaming eyes.

Die flammenden Augen.

Els ulls flamejants.

Los ojos flameantes.

Words fall upon you slowly

like little frozen rain drops

that swirl up in the air:

Die Luft, l’aire and el aire.

With the palms of your hands

you pick as many as needed.

Each word is a most precious pearl:

Perle, perla and perla,

that you gather in silence:

Stille, silenci and silencio.

Like quiet roses they blossom

once all the pearls conform

the puzzle of your necklace:

Halskette, collaret and collar.

From the darkness and shadows

your new poem comes into existence:

Existenz, existència and existencia.



Llences les paraules vers el cel,

les paraules són Wörter en alemany

i el cel es diu Der Himmel.

mentre Du wirfst vol dir tu llences.

Així aquesta línia en alemany diu:

Du wirfst die Wörter in den Himmel.

Les teves paraules floten en el cel

com perles dansants en l’horitzó

o si ho prefereixes en castellà:

perlas danzantes en el horizonte.

I a mesura que les perles van dansant

apareix una nova albada de creació:

creation, Kreation i creación,

en anglès, alemany i castellà.

Una nova albada de creació

t’ofereix la seva màgica infinitud:

Magic infinity.

Magische Unendlichkeit.

Mágica infinitud.

Enmig del mar i del vent

sents la cadència del seu moviment:

The cadence, die Kadenz, i la cadencia.

Les paraules il.luminen els ulls flamejants

dels teus somnis més desitjats:

Els ulls flamejants.

The flaming eyes.

Die flammenden Augen.

Los ojos flameantes.

Les paraules cauen damunt teu lentament

com petites gotes de pluja congelades

que s’arremolinen en l’aire:

The air, die Luft i el aire.

Amb els palmells de les teves mans

n’agafes tantes com en necessites.

Cada paraula és una perla preciosa:

Pearl, Perle i perla,

que reculls en el silenci:

Silence, Stille i silencio.

Com quietes roses floreixen

una vegada que totes composen

el trencaclosques del teu collaret:

Necklace, Halskette i collar.

Des de la foscor i les ombres

el teu nou poema comença una existència:

Existence, Existenz i existencia.

© 2018, poem and illustration, Marta Pombo Sallés (Moments)


It Comes from the Unseen Force

Words and thoughts  felt in transparency, unknown, unseen,
senses benumbed, as vision scans nature’s  changing vapors
against a canvas, bordered by shivering trembling green leaves
of stretching, bound, firmly rooted growth, shaping into one
strong trunk…strange is the form yet studded with beauty …

as feather like as water drops, soft, in feeling, a medium,
which passes through, touching the body soul and spirit
breaking the trance to discover, an idea ‘arranging deepening’
in the mind, revealing a song’ or a story’ or poetic drama’
so ‘poetry should be naturally expressed’ though along the way-

‘there are places that beckon us to stop or warn that these lines
are true,these thoughts good, let the words flow’, in early drafts
don’t try to control the poem’, feel free to alter the facts’,yes,it is
easy then, but it is work, hard work, the idea comes from the unseen
it is then from ‘me ‘ to something real outside ‘ in order, to craft’

sometimes it is Light’ spreading gold in the sky on hills and land
cutting darkness to glory divine’ when green goes dark looks grand
mind stirs wonders eyes gather images and thoughts seek words
to amalgamate colors, beauty serene, majestic mystical  hills of sand
who made them? how much more beauty must be in His Domain !

2014-03-06 17.23.11
a poem can be, just be, it comes in moments, in time, at night
sometimes nothing descends for days, nothing inspires, a lone
still, lifeless object, may strike the soul, yet it all is formed only
when the mind in its richness of  language receives the ‘order’
‘a divine gift ‘it is as poets have revealed in the past across ‘border’

Mirza Ghalib wrote’

Aate HaiN Ghaib Se Yeh MazameeN Khayal MeiN
Ghalib Sarir-e Khamah Nava-e Sarosh Hai

 When mysteriously topics or subjects come in ones thoughts,
Then the sound made by the pen, resonates like the voice or sound of angles.

and so it is for me…

© 2018, poem and illustrations, Anjum Wasim Dar (Poetic Oceans)


Levure littéraire, Vita Brevis, and The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life

Worth your time:

  1. Levure littéraire is exceptional in so many ways. It’s worthy of your time and so clearly exhibits the thought, originality and hard work of its founder and editorial board, which includes Hélène Cardona and Aprilia Zank. The video below is an introduction to the 14th issue that will include three of my poems along with poetry, other writing and artwork by an impressive gathering of writers and artists. Roxanne Brousseau Felio created this stellar video. I don’t know when 14 will go up, but don’t wait to check it out. This international multilingual publication is not to be missed.
  2. Vita Brevis is a relatively new online poetry venue I introduced to you here some time ago.  I like the gentle grace of this modest effort and took a chance with the new kid on the block when it first crossed my radar. The reason I say “took a chance” is because if you have little or nothing to study as an example of style and values, you never know how things are going to turn out and it may turn out to be embarrassing. Vita Brevis is anything but embarrassing and is now open for submissions. I encourage you to visit, read and submit. You can read my submission HERE.



I recently discovered this delightful site, The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life. I’m addicted. So very many old friends featured there and some new-to-me-writers. A fabulous and most enjoyable find. Lit Ladies is on Facebook HERE. The website is HERE.  Enjoy!