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Poetry from the Women, Writing and Incarceration Project, in Celebration of National Poetry Month

by Matthew Morley 4/3/2013 10:14:00 AM

Every year, hundreds of poets and poetry readers participate in National Poetry Month in April. The premise of National Poetry Month is that a writer produces one poem a day, which will accelerate their writing and grow alongside the change of the season. Poetry is the written spoken-word, and like the subtle differences between our voices, poetry is an artistic manifestation of our expressions. The field of poetry is a massive spectrum, and any contributions to the field are an example of individuality.

Poetry can be as real or imaginary as the writer chooses. There is a lot of freedom in poetry; there is the freedom to express any emotion or object, in any infinite number of ways. For the writers in the Women, Writing and Incarceration Project (WWIP) Collection, poetry was a means of expression that allows for the exploration of the self. The WWIP was a class offered by the School for New Learning at DePaul University between 2001 and 2005. This experimental class allowed students to conduct poetry writing workshops in prisons with female prisoners, which introduced students to the realities of incarceration for women in the United States and offered incarcerated women a way to “interrupt the official discourse” about them.

Upon reading the carefully selected words of various incarcerated women, it is possible to get a sense of the self-reflection many of them had. Some examples among this powerful collection of poems include, “The Statue” and “Wishing.”

"The Statue", poem from Women, Writing and Incarceration Project"Wishing", poem from Women, Writing and Incarceration project

After reading this collection of poems, it’s clear that poetry does not have to be published in magazines or written by famous writers in order to contain meaning. The poems of the Women, Writing and Incarceration Project are indicative of that. Their poetry is both stirring to the casual reader as well as explicit in the feelings that many of the incarcerated women had. If you’re looking to draw inspiration or find out more about the Women, Writing and Incarceration Project, come to Special Collections and Archives, Room 314 in the John T. Richardson Library.

For additional information on the Women, Writing and Incarceration Project, contact SPCA at: or stop by Special Collections & Archives in the John T. Richardson Library, Room 314.

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