Nature - from Behind Bars

Here is a piece from Orion magazine featuring poetry and short descriptions of the natural world written by prisoners in the American Southwest. The article was curated and introduced by Richard Shelton who writes:

"In his book American Notes, Charles Dickens describes his visits to several American prisons in the early 1840s. He describes the solitary-confinement prison model at some length, and then says, “It is my fixed opinion that those who have undergone this punishment must pass into society again mortally unhealthy and diseased.” Dickens is suggesting that there is a relationship between humans and a natural environment, any natural environment—the starkest of deserts or polar regions, the heat and smothering humidity of the tropics—a relationship which, if sufficiently violated, will be not only punishing but permanently damaging to the human. And this, with the exception of capital punishment, is perhaps the greatest crime against humanity our penal system can inflict—and it is also one of the most common.

Since 1974 I have directed a number of prison writing workshops, all for male prisoners, in the Arizona State Prison. The writing that is collected in this issue of Orion was selected from that of the hundreds of writers who have participated in these programs."

Here is an excerpt from one prisoner's piece, titled From a Cell in Cimarron:

"THE COYOTE GOT A SONG, they do. Starts a little like a dog but from there out it’s all their own. They loose their throats somewhere in the middle, then shake it at the top, bending the night with harmonies. They chase through washes and through rain-wet streets, daring a driver with that next set of eyes to run them down or just plain stop."

Read more here.