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The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Prison poetry website awarded $75,000 NEA grant

Prison

“If I had the wings of an angel…”

Thanks to sequestration, there is not enough money in the government coffers to keep “the people’s house” (aka the White House) open for tours. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that there’s plenty of money — $75,000 worth — for prison poetry.

According to CNSNews.com, a new website that features readings of poems written by current inmates was launched this week with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Among the podcasts available to visitors of prisonpoetryworkshop.org are recitations of poems like “Ghetto Bastard,” “Fenced Jewels,” and “A Gangster’s Prayer.”

“From listening to poems read by incarcerated poets to going inside our nation’s prisons, jails, and detention centers,” the website promises, “PPW wants to share our work with you as it unfolds. You can even visit our ‘Poetry Workshop’ and read a prisoners’ poem for us to possibly share on our podcast and radio broadcast.”

Nick Szuberla, Executive Producer of the project, told CNS, “It’s to focus on a literary form that is often overlooked and unrecognized in America.” The site, he explained further, will offer an in-depth look in particular into the work and history of poet Etheridge Knight. Knight’s book of poetry “Poems from Prison” was released in 1968 and reflects on the time he spent in prison for robbery. It is not clear whether “The Ballad Of Reading Gaol” will be featured among the other offerings.

In the meantime, the amount of money doled out for the website pales next to amounts taxpayers have been forced to fork over for worthwhile endeavors that include ‘voice therapy’ for transsexuals ($152K), a study on duck penises ($385K), and another on the mating habits of snails ($880K).

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Howard Portnoy has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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