These poems were written by inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, ambulance Kansas, and where they participated in poetry workshops sponsored by Arts In Prison, Inc. This collection was edited by Arlin Buyert in 2013.
Open to the Sky exposes a world most of us choose to ignore. Yet, as we read the poems, we come to recognize with the incarcerated our shared need for understanding and acceptance. As one poet writes: “I need to learn, I need to grow/ I need to love and be loved.” Some of the poems are as stark and tightly controlled as a cell block. Others are small gems that reveal dogged perseverance and raw vulnerability. Through poetry, these men find release- even wisdom- as they sing the songs of themselves with unflinching honesty.
—Alan Robert Proctor, author and Poetry Editor for Kansas City Voices
These poems deal with difficult situations, difficult place and emotions. And yet, they speak so openly and with such power that they are not depressing, but affirming. There is not just loss and difficulty in these poems, but also courage and love. And perhaps most moving of all, there is hope. I thank the writers of these poems for their honesty, for their willingness to share their truths and their spirit with the rest of us.
—Jim Moore, professor and poet
Written by imprisoned men who have lost—some forever, some temporarily—the “green trees and grass-time” of freedom, this valuable collection reminds us where real poetry comes from. Out of anguish and despair, passion and joy, powerful work has emerged that bears witness to a place both internal and external and seeks to find order in the deceits of prison life. Compelling, wise, ironic, intense (“If I were a wolf, I’d howl”) these poems remind us of our common bonds and also our shared responsibility for a severely fl awed penal system: “Welcome Brother/To the house you have built.” I can only say Thank You to these men who, with courage and skill and truth, have brought me to a sharpened awareness of what it means to be human.
—Jo McDougall, poet
Open to the Sky, an anthology of prison inmate writing, edited by Arlin Buyert, is a stellar contribution to the fascinating world of writing that issues from behind bars. The work is gritty, candid and often forbidding, issuing as it does from the thwarted dreams, the often transmogrified lives, of those who can now only imagine the secular world. But in those dreams there’s hope as well and, more than anything, the steadily beating humanity that informs them. As Johnny D. says in his poem, “In-Security,” “To escape in your mind is the only get away.” This is an eye-opening collection.
— Joseph Bathanti, Poet Laureate of North Carolina