Christmas came early for some of the inmates at the Newton Correctional Facility in Iowa this week. At least it might have looked like Christmas, but that man with the long white beard wasn't Santa Claus, it was Iowa's first Poet Laureate, Marvin Bell. Here's some of what the inmates involved in the Inside/Out Writing Collective had to say:
"Mr. Bell encouraged the writing we do and gave us what most of us have sought -- permission to write and do so freely. He reminded us that in writing the reward is the journey itself. He took away some of our anxiety about writing and told us, 'There is no good stuff without the bad stuff.' That statement applied to so many things in our lives. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that he was right, and we slowly became aware that he was talking about much more than poetry."(Click here for the entire article.)
I've long been a great admirer of Marvin Bell's poetry, and now of his generosity of spirit, as well. A poem of his hangs on the wall above my desk. It's called "Less Self." I recommend reading his work. A good place to start is with Nightworks : Poems 1962-2000, which includes, among many other treasures, all of his famous "Dead Man" poems.