The Writer's Den

UCLA's creative writing student group

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but prisoners of their own minds.” – FDR

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When I was browsing Tumblr, I stumbled upon this 2007 publication of poetry written by prisoners.

So I did some minor digging (AKA, I typed in Urbana Champaign Books to Prisoners on Google) and I found this website that tries to provide books to inmates in Illinois. And then I clicked on their blog to find amazing works of art.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorites so far that I’ve come across in their publication.

At times I get beside myself

These times are more than rare

Of knowledge on life, I have a wealth;

But still my heart is bare.

I just can’t seem to locate- With precision- where I strayed.

Could it be due to “my fate” That my visions disarrayed?

-Larry Alverson, excerpt from “Beside myself”

A note from the Tumblr, Yeahwriters, where I got this from:

…So often people take for granted that they are free to roam the world and find beautiful things to write about. The people that write for this publication are prisoners, often convicted of violent crimes that make me cringe, write things that are beautiful and more importantly, things I can relate to and understand. This ability to communicate from a cell beyond our society shows the true power of writing…

I don’t know why, but I was always intrigued by how society handles incarceration. I even did my whole film research project on American films that deal with incarceration. Thoughts on being imprisoned – both physically and mentally – appear in so many works throughout time that it’s interesting to see how humans perpetually feel like they are just stuck.

So here’s a prompt for you if you’d like one that you all probably knew was coming:

Write about imprisonment, a handicap, confinement, whatever you want to call it – it’s just this idea of being stuck. Think about how the character or narrator got to that point, how they can get unstuck, if they should get unstuck / if he or she deserves it.

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