April is National Poetry Month. One of the organizations I support is COMPAS, whose mission is to “deliver creative experiences that unleash the potential in all of us.” A program I am particularly enthusiastic about is the Women’s Writing Program at the Washington County Jail. The program has published 286 women in over 39 anthologies.
What drew me to this writing program is the many ways it benefits women inmates. It empowers them to tell their stories, it demonstrates their worth, and most importantly, it gives them hope. COMPAS Executive Director Dawne Brown White notes these advantages go beyond the women to their children as well, who often excitedly proclaim, “My mom is a published author!” Every volume of poetry receives an ISBN number and is carried by Minnesota libraries.
Most of the women are in jail due to drug-related offenses. Some people may dismiss them, failing to realize that these women often found themselves in situations they were powerless to change due to violence, addiction, poverty and other factors. During the observance of Poetry Month, I proudly present some of their work from Unlocked Memories:
Completely Honest by Amber Lynn Carpenter
To be completely honest is not an easy task I’ll say
but if you don’t lie there’s nothing to hide
And peace within will become your pride
Short Exchanges by Phim
Travelled from Pacific Ocean to Atlantic
different languages and many skin colors
my new world is big and busy
I was misunderstood in this country
eventually they took away my opportunity
now I have a new history
that I will never mend.
Disappointment by Laura Hendrickson
I’m sorry Mom I’m not like you.
We are not like we used to be,
Thing 1 and Thing 2.
You have always been my idol
and my hero,
next to you I feel like zero.
I always said if I were half of you
I’d be a success,
Holy shit Mom I’m such a mess.
Thank God Mom, you are you.
You always hug me
and say I’m so proud of you.
Mistakes by Ginny Johnson
What is a mistake?
A mistake is something we do wrong
Something we mess up on
And something we learn.
Life puts us through tests each day
It’s how we go about it
And what we learn to make us stronger.
Happy by Ashley Cross
Happiness to me
is being out
loving all of me
free to just
Learn more about COMPAS’s Women’s Writing Program here.