Literature Locked Up: First Amendment and the fight for access to books and magazines in our prisons

Photo courtesy of Johannes Jansson/norden.org under CC BY 2.5 dk

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”  James Baldwin



Last month a federal court ruled that the Arizona Department of Corrections was overly broad in restricting certain publications to people in state prisons, and ordered the department to establish clearer rules that are consistent with the First Amendment. The decision stems from a 2015 lawsuit brought by the magazine Prison Legal News, which alleged that state corrections officials were unfairly withholding the magazine from incarcerated subscribers.

“The ruling out of Arizona is a significant step forward for the First Amendment and for our fight for access to literature in sites of incarceration,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “The court was right to recognize that Arizona’s policies towards book access give too much discretion to individual employees, who are then empowered to implement these policies in arbitrary or overly restrictive ways, and to demand narrow definitions for what content is prohibited.”

“PEN America has previously called for more explicit policies that more narrowly define the bounds for rejecting books, and we hope that Arizona’s revised policies will meet this mark,” Benavidez continued. “We need regulations that better enshrine the First Amendment within prison walls, and that recognize the importance of access to literature for our incarcerated population. We believe that this ruling can serve as an example for other jurisdictions to recognize the fundamental right to read where it remains threatened in American prisons.”

In September 2019, PEN America released Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban. a research report on the state of the right to read in American prisons. The report concluded that “book restrictions in American prisons are often arbitrary, overbroad, opaque, subject to little meaningful review, and overly dismissive of incarcerated people’s right to access literature behind bars.”

Among the recommendations, PEN America concluded that state and federal officials should develop more explicit policies governing book restrictions; implement periodic review of their restriction policies; and ensure that prison officials strongly consider the literary, educational, and rehabilitative merit of any publication before determining its admissibility.

This post is courtesy of PEN America.

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


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

Facebook, like so much in life, a mixed blessing …

“But like the best empire builders, he was both very determined and very skeptical. It’s like [former Intel CEO] Andy Grove says, ‘only the paranoid survive.”  David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World



I just posted this on my personal Facebook account:

I seem to be under attack. FB says posts are against community standards. Account also apparently hacked x 2. Peace? Sustainability? Social Justice? The video I responded to in the spirit of the video was allowed to go up but my comment is blocked. ??? So false political advertising that will impact the lives of many is okay with Facebook and so are abuses of confidentiality but sharing good news is not. So the wealthy get to practice freedom of speech but the poor do not. They even have prevented me from sharing some of my Calls for Submissions posts, which are only meant to help my fellow writers and poets get their own work out there, which as we all know can be a huge challenge. I don’t make income off of this. I’m just an old lady pounding a keyboard from my sick-bed, trying to do my best in the final stages of catastrophic lung diseases and a rare incurable blood cancer to remain productive and engaged and helpful. I am against no one, against no race, country, religion or lack there of. I’m not even against FB and its honchos, though policy is indeed sometimes questionable. Facebook does allow us to connect globally, which is a good thing. The Dalai Lama once said that people should have more festivals, the idea being that when we break bread together or share a bowl of rice, we see one another as human not other. In a way, Facebook is the equivalent of a friendly global festival . . . at least it is if that’s the way you use it – and all of YOU do. 🙂 That’s something for which I am grateful. Thank you, Facebook and Mark Z. I am for people, peace, sustainability, and social justice. I am only against the systems that ravage the lives of often helpless people/s. That would be the American ideal – however much we often fail at living up to it – and one would think Mark Z would share that ideal. How is that a threat? How am I a threat? Well dear friends, fellow poets, writers, artists, philosophers and spiritual writers, sharing my fave philosophy below. May this day treat you well. Amen. xo


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

Touching Without Holding, the seventh poem in Linda Chown’s William Blake Series

Lear and Cordlia in Prison c. 1779 / courtesy of the Tate / Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) License this image

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
William Blake



How this softer Blake burns.
Who’s to say how
to know this
way beyond way?
This tremendous reaching,
feeling sticking out, conspicuous.
Once, Vita Sackville-West dove
herself far, like Blake,
after a new balance,
to hold onto stasis,
memorialize apotheoses,
and make making more momentous.

Her book “All Passion Spent,”
probes the very soul wrench
of this stillborn painting
whose people stay fully
clothed yet fully undone
in silent grief beyond saying.
Blake gives Lear and Cordelia
the whole stage to lie about in,
bathed in a clash of terribly gentle color
and terribly gruesome agitation.

This father and daughter
touch without holding,
athwart in a pain beyond knowing:
they cannot face the other nor touch.
They grip themselves instead,
fingers heavy and listless
Keen faces screaming, soundless
like inside a stranger’s coffin.

Told once to be “less extravagant,” Blake gives even more
intensely in simplicity, this way beyond the way beyond.
In the gentle pastels, passion roils, boils all the more.
This frozen love fills everything up, all the bareness.
They touch on in the tragedy without holding,
in a barren consummation.
Lost in a lightyear of lonely.

© 2019, Linda Chown

“We never actually see Lear and Cordelia in prison in Shakespeare’s King Lear, but a scene like this appears in Nahum Tate’s adaptation of the play, and Blake might have seen a performance in this, the only version staged in the eighteenth century. However, Martin Butlin thinks a more likely source is John Milton’s History of Britain, where Lear is the last of the descendants of Brutus and the first King of England, thus making this early work by Blake part of a series of pictures he planned to call The History of England, a small book of Engravings (31).”

The other poems in Linda’s ongoing Blake-poem series:

  1. Refections into William Blake’s “Brutus and Caesar’s Ghost,” Linda Chown
  2. Cohering Clashes: Wiliam Blake’s “The Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun,” Linda Chown
  3. This New Ending of the Beginning: William Blake’s “The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve,” Linda Chown
  4. Looking Up High: “The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies, and The Suicides,”Linda Chown
  5. Double Trouble: Lamech and His Two Wives, Linda Chown
  6. The Sun in His Wrath, Linda Chown


I am delighted to announce today that Linda Chown’s Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in the Novels of Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite (Routledge Library Editions: Modern Fiction) is now available through Amazon in hardcover and Kindle. Linda tells me a budget-wise paperback edition will be available in six-to-eight months.

This study, originally published in 1990, assesses a shift in the presentation of self-consciousness in two pairs of novels by Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite: 1) Lessing’s The Summer Before the Dark (1973) and Martín Gaite’s Retahílas (1974) and 2) Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) and Martín Gaite’s The Back Room (1978). Three major structural divisions facilitate examining implications of the novels for 1) feminism 2) literary narrative and 3) the lives of people-at-large. / J.D.

Linda’s Amazon Page is HERE.

Linda Chown



LINDA E. CHOWN grew up in Berkeley, Ca. in the days of action. Civil Rights arrests at Sheraton Palace and Auto Row.  BA UC Berkeley Intellectual History; MA Creative Writing SFSU; PHd Comparative Literature University of Washington. Four books of poetry. Many poems published on line at Numero Cinq, Empty Mirror, The BeZine, Dura, Poet Head and others. Many articles on Oliver Sachs, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Twenty years in Spain with friends who lived through the worst of Franco. I was in Spain (Granada, Conil and Cádiz) during Franco’s rule, there the day of his death when people took to the streets in celebration. Interviewed nine major Spanish Women Novelists, including Ana María Matute and Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martín Gaite.



Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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

 

Opportunity Knocks for Poets and Writers: Calls for Submissions, Competitions; Update on Zimbabwean Poet, Mbizo Chirasha

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass



Opportunity knocks is published periodically in place of Sunday Announcements, which included calls for submissions, competitions, events and other information. these days as news comes in I included on The Poet by Day Facebook Page. Remember that information is not necessarily recommendation.  Follow the leads that interest you, but do your own homework. / J.D.

CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS

ARTEMISpoetry, a publication of Second Light Network of Women Poets, is open for submissions of poetry to Issue 34 by 28th February 2020 and artwork by 15th March 2020. Demographic restrictions: Women Only.  Membership not required. Details HERE.

THE BeZINE is open for submissions through November 15 for the December 15 issue, themed “Life of the Spirit.”  We publish fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, poetry, art, photography, and music videos … anything that will lend itself to online publication. Submissions to the ZINE BLOG are always welcome and there are no special themes for November, December and January at this time. In February we plan to address disability issues, but at this time haven’t decided if it will be month-long series of blog posts or a special issue of the Zine. We are an entirely volunteer effort, a mission of love. We are unable to make payments but neither do we charge submission or subscription fees. Submission guidelines are HERE.  Mission statement is HERE.

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ART FESTIVAL is open for submissions. It is “a growing platform for writers to submit poetry, creative nonfiction, short fiction, essays or any other format that comes from the heart, and focuses on social and activist themes. We base our work on the values of beauty, sincerity, vulnerability and engagement, and hope that these will be reflected in the submissions.” Details HERE.

MULTIVERSE, the sci-fi poetry section of Shoreline of Infinity seeks submissions. “Send us your time traveling tanka, scientific sonnet, robotic rondel, high-tech haiku, alien acrostics and futuristic free verse.”  No fee and as far as I can tell, no pay. Details HERE.

PANTHEON LITERARY JOURNAL is open to short story, flash, poetry, and creative nonfiction submissions for its second issue, Winter 2020. $3 submission fee. Deadline: December 31. Details HERE.

REWILDING: Poems for the Environment, an anthology that explores the current state of the natural environment is open for submissions through December 31, 2019 for this anthology developed by Flexible Press in concert with Split Rock Review. No submission fee. Proceeds to be donated to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, a nonprofit environmental organization in Minnesota. Poet payment is a copy of the anthology. Details HERE.

SPLIT ROCK REVIEW is open for submissions of poetry, short creative nonfiction, comics, graphic stories, hybrids/visual poetry, photography, and art that explore place, environment, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Reading period closes on November 30. $2 submission fee. No payment. Details HERE.

SPLIT ROCK PRESS, an extension of Split Rock Review, seeks poetry chapbook manuscripts that explore place, environment, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. 1 to 4 poetry chapbooks to be published in 2020. $7 submission fee. Deadline: November 30.  Details HERE.

COMPETITIONS:

According to The Poetry Society of America’s site: “The PSA’s Annual Awards are among the most prestigious honors available to poets. They offer emerging and established poets recognition at all stages of their careers, including our student poetry award and book awards for publishers.”There are four categories Individual Awards, Anna Rabinowitz Prize, Student Poetry Award, and Book Awards for Publishers. Details HERE.



UPDATE ON 

ZIMBABWEAN POET IN EXILE:

MBIZO CHIRASHA

We’ve published a three-part series on this esteemed and accomplished poet-at-risk to help draw attention to his plight and to the plight of all poets, artists and activists working in the trenches in countries where they are in danger from violent despots and greedy kleptocrats. This week’s Wednesday Writing Prompt is also to further these efforts and is sponsored by Mbizo in the sense that he donated his poetry.

I’m not sure yet how many letters of support for safe harbor we have, but the go-fund-me (for some immediate needs) amount is up from $150 to $420. The goal is $575. We’ve also managed to get Mbizo an interview with a radio show in Canada, with Paul Brookes on Wombwell Rainbow, and a lot of exposure on social networking sites.  To all who have supported this effort, thank you from my heart and from Mbizo’s.  I’ll post the link to the radio interview when it’s done and will keep folks updated.

LOOK ALIVE LINE: Remember, we need letters sent to International Cities of Refugee Network by November 15 (see Part 3 in the series listed below) for Mbizo’s safe harbor and email letters of support for Mbizo’s PEN America application to him at girlchildcreativity@gmail.com.  You can also connect with Mbizo on Facebook.

“We remain resilient in the quest for justice, freedom of expression and upholding of human rights through Literary Activism and Artivism. ALUTA CONTINUA.” Mbizo Chirasha

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Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


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