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Praxis Reflection 2/26

Ang's picture

This week I worked separately from the other two as they worked on updating the website while I went through poetry that had been submitted in the last year that needed to be sorted through. I told S and the others my idea for them to create a little contest for cover artwork for the poetry book. I explained that we could make a page or two in the book with honorary mentions of everyone who did submit but didn't get chosen for the cover, so that everyone gets their artwork shared whether they win or not.

It was weird, up until this week I've only been going through poetry that had already been chosen to be put in the poetry book and organizing it, but this time I was given the position to decide which poems will join the pile of poems to be published. When I asked S if I should look for anything specific when deciding, she some of the others explained that, generally, anything that shows these kids as full human beings with real stories and real lives, and anything that really represents how they feel or what it's like inside the prisons. Who am I to decide which of their poems are "good?" A stream of questions and insecurities went through my mind as I read each piece and decided which pile each piece went in. How much do I listen to my mind and my past experiences in school literary magazines? How much do I judge each piece by technical ability? I felt snobbish and pretentious, I've never stopped and questioned myself while reading before. Throughout years of education, I've trained myself to have a mode where I automatically edit the writing while reading, or at least taking mental notes of possible edits or improvements. I felt suddenly so self conscious of my automatic mental critiques, and wondered how much I should let that take over my decision making in the submitted poems. 

By the time we were ready to leave, I had gone through the pile of poems three times, wanting to give my entire attention so that I felt like I had made the right decision for each piece. I went through the pile of pieces to be published and sorted them by author. I was surprised when I realized I immediately recognized multiple names, familiar names and handwriting from other poems I had sorted the previous weeks. I've never met any of these kids, but I've read their writing, in which they bare their feelings in complete honesty. The chances of me ever meeting any of them are very slim, and they probably won't ever know who I am. I wonder, when they get contacted for permission to publish, if they'll think about the people who have read their poems, the people who will read their poems. What must it feel like to be locked up but also to have your art published? What is it like, when your words and artwork become free, while you remain locked up behind walls and bars?