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Prison poets read their poems to the public, touch hearts

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Via PeaceWorks KC

Picture 1) Wise Hayes reads to a standing-room-only gathering.
Picture 2) Audience members, including PeaceWorks member Tom Mountenay, foreground, listen intently.
Picture 3) Arlin Buyert reads one of his own poems, with help from his friends.
Picture 4) Lansing Correctional Center. Photo by

Prison poets read their poems to the public, touch hearts
by Jackie Utter
Posted March 4, 2016

Two current inmates and four former inmates read their poetry Feb. 16 at Johnson County Central Library in Overland Park, KS. The event marked the first time Lansing Correctional Facility, in Lansing, KS, allowed prisoners an evening of freedom to read to the public.The readings started out with the past and present inmates—who have all been involved in the poetry program at the prison–reading their own work and poems from another 10 current inmates who were not able to attend the reading. Their words were powerful and moving and explained in detail the different hardships about being in prison and about life in general.Here’s a short poem as an example, this one by Jacob Waldrop, one of the current inmates who did not come to the reading: Lessons

big leather strap
crying, begging, pleading
hope the pain goes away quickly

PeaceWorks member Arlin Buyert, the prisoners’ poetry teacher for the last four years, got the warden’s okay for the evening out, and indeed, the warden came for the performance. Buyert wrapped up the readings with one of his own poems, read with help from all the inmates, and the audience of more than 160 persons gave them a standing ovation. If you would like to know more about these partners in peace, please check these links: Kansas City Star: “Arts in Prison poetry program helps inmates find freedom in writing,” and on Facebook: The Writers Place and Arts in Prison, Inc.The Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading Series (a collaboration between The Writer’s Place in KCMO and the Johnson County Library) presented the poetry reading by the inmates and former inmates. The poetry program at the prison is sponsored by Arts in Prison, Inc., which also features The East Hill Singers, theatre and yoga.



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