Creative Writing from California’s Lancaster Prison
Release Date: APRIL 2020
Make a Poem Cry is an anthology of poems from one of California’s high-security prisons brought to us through the creative writing classes of Luis J. Rodríguez, sponsored by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Rodríguez, who is Tia Chucha Press’s founding editor, and formerly incarcerated writer Kenneth E. Hartman have selected work penned from 2016 to 2018. These are poems, essays, stories, and more mined from the depths of familial, racial, and economic violence. They are imaginings for how to address trouble and crime without punishment, dehumanization, and violence in return. Here’s restorative/transformative justice in action. Here’s redemption in the flesh. Here are voices and viewpoints needed for a just and equitable world for all.
Funded by the Arts for Justice Fund, the project is part of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s “Trauma to Transformation Program.”
About the Editors
Convicted of murder at 19, Kenneth E. Hartman was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. After serving 38 years, former California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. commuted his sentence and Hartman was paroled in 2017. He’s presently a freelance writer who’s also working as a development coordinator and prison programs specialist for a Los Angeles-area nonprofit involved in prison rehabilitation programs. His 2009 memoir Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award. Hartman edited Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough, a collection of prisoner writings about life without the possibility of parole sentences, winner of a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award. His work has appeared in the New York Times and Harper’s.
For 40 years Luis J. Rodriguez has taught creative writing as well as conducted poetry readings, lectures, and healing circles in prisons, juvenile lockups, and jails throughout the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. He’s the founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. He has 15 books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, including the best-selling memoir “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.”
"There are few places left where putting pen to paper remains the dominant mode of formal communication, but so it is inside the jails and prisons of this country. Whether it’s sad letters to family members, or desperate pleas to heedless courts and government functionaries, or long, passionate missives to lovers on the other side of the fences, the average man or woman in prison talks to the rest of the world through words written on paper.”
—Kenneth E. Hartman, from the preface
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