Monday, June 25, 2007

Poetry from Prison

I learned about an interesting new poetry anthology from Day to Day on NPR today, and I'm really intrigued by it.

Mark Falkoff, a law professor who also has a doctorate in literature, compiled poems from Guantanamo Bay detainees. His anthology, Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak, will be released by University of Iowa Press this August. During the Day to Day Program, one of the now-released poets read a couple of his poems and described a little of his experience as a detainee. His experience was harrowing, surely, but he described it in such a touching and accessible way. For instance, he developed a literary friendship with one of the guards and they traded poems back and forth about their experience as guard and inmate. I wonder what Foucault would think of that?

What amazed me most about this project is that these poems have an amazing opportunity to humanize these detainees and their experience. Here is their perspective, not only on their detention, but on their lives. However, the program described some of the legal difficulties that Falkoff had in trying to publish this anthology. Apparently, the current administration felt that the poetry might contain hidden messages that could endanger our national security. I cannot imagine that a respected press like the University of Iowa Press would publish poems that would promote terrorism. I think that the administration's concern is that the detainees' plight could become sympathetic, and that the poems might encourage further awareness of the Guantanamo debacle.