Why Prison Writing Matters | R. Becker

Prison writing is not more than just a writer writing.

But before the physical act of writing takes place, comes the writer’s struggle to

articulate thought by choosing ju st the right words and metaphors, syntax and lexicon . Before the articulation comes the intellectual and analytical organization of thoughts.

Before the analysis and organization comes the realization of the thoughts; witnessing one’s own thinking, evaluative and ruminative processes of mentally masticating upon our sensory impressions and resulting emotions. ¬†Self-awareness.

To me, writing is sharing this awareness and doing so genuinely, with openness and vulnerability, opens us up to continue observing our mutable selves as we write.

For me, this process is borne out in essays, poetry, academia and correspond ence.  Each piece of writing is an u ttered culmination of a significant and transformative struggle.

Struggle is intrinsic to life and a potent catalyst for inspired examination of life.

Struggle is essential to becoming, maintaining, and evolving as a human being on earth .

In prison, the struggle begins each morning I awake to another incarcerated day. Struggling with the injustice of my being here, struggling to cope with the chaos and endure the psychic angst all around me, I am compelled to explore this insanity.

The struggle continues through my daily efforts to adju st to the inconsistencies and variable whims of prison authorities, the unpredictability and over-sensitivities of fellow prisoners. Prison life is a struggle to acknowledge, accept, and adapt to dehumanizing adversities inherent in an industrial system designed for maximally efficient and secure human storage. Calculated measures are in force to discount, disqualify, disenfranchise and exclude prison inmates from society and from life.

In our daily struggle to maintain our human dignity in prison we seek validation for our marginalized voices. This validation and self-realization are found through the incremental processes leading from conception, through birth and nurturing, to articulation of our struggled utterance. The end product represents a tangible proclamation and proof of our existence and legitimacy .

My writing experience is cathartic, salvific, epiphanic, synthetic and organic. If daily struggles in prison become the subject of my writing, then it is prison writing. If the writing has a different focus, regardless, the writing is done in the context of prison. Either way it matters – the writing -because the writer matters, the process matters, the message matters, the audience matters, and what matters most is giving purpose and redemption to the struggle for meaning – the struggle to matter.

My struggle to matter begins with the introspective journ ey of becoming and continues through the emancipation and enunciation of my emergent identity. This journey and evanescent manifestation transcend my carceral circumstances. Personal transformation and self-discovery are common goals and products of writing. A

writer’s prison context can be material or metaphorical. Writing provides an allegorical escape route, either way, and one that cannot be achieved by any other means.

Writing helps me explore myself and to translate my discoveries to readers including my own future self’s reflective perspective.

My foremost inquiry begins not with, “where am I?” but, “who am I?”.

Prison writing matters because writers matter; whether we write about or in prison.

 

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