23 June, 2014

At the Lazy Sunday Prison Writers Conference

The sun dawned brightly on Sunday and fast-moving clouds promised that any rainfall would be scant enough not to disrupt the scheduled meeting of literary minds, for which an astonishing two writers turned out to confab on the wide, glistening concrete yard of Crossroads Correctional Center.

I arrived promptly at 8:20 AM and was greeted by Lefty Two Apples, a pioneering member of the group formerly not known by anyone as Sub Rosa Writers, dressed for the weather in khaki shorts and a state-issued gray shirt.

“Greetings, Lefty,” I said from behind my dollar fifty-six wayfarers.

“Greetings, Skullface,” he replied.

Each of us clasped manila envelopes filled with sundry literary candy — a copy of Reality Hunger for discussion, handwritten and typed sheets of recent poems, annotations of interest — in addition to a CD of environmental sounds I carried for another acquaintance, yet to appear. There were also, glinting in the light like the sword hilts of assembled soldiers, pocketed black- and red-ink pens.

The conference commenced with a perambulation of the prison’s paved walkway. Pedestrians paid little mind as Lefty held forth on the benefits of out-loud recitation in poem composition, a presentation that met with widespread head-nodding among its audience of one, who deemed its subject “tremendously important.”

Entertainment followed. The improvisational stand-up comedian brought everyone to the ground in hysterics (as did the mounting heat). Afterward the comic mingled and glad-handed with attendees in the crisscrossed shade of a chain-link fence where they’d seated themselves.

More jocularity ensued as the comic turned his wit to more edgy fare — morning constitutionals, the questionable existence of jackalopes, and (an obvious point of mockery) the aforementioned thunderstorm CD. “Oh, look, this says there’s one with a dolphin song on it — like the soundtrack to Flipper!”

Getting into the spirit, Lefty contributed the priceless non sequitur, “If I had a large building with an elevator in it, that would be what I played instead of Muzak.”

The comedian at last made his exit, at which point began the event’s poetry workshop. Lefty’s planned submissions to a themed literary journal were our focus.

A cogent — and perfectly inoffensive — two-man panel discussion on the matter of racial poetics served to cap off the morning.

As we disbanded and wended our respective ways off the yard, this attendee was already eager for the next conference, tentatively planned for the Saturday after next, or whenever Lefty’s housing unit spends another morning recreation period with mine.

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