Cover image for Doing time : twenty-five years of prison writing
Doing time : twenty-five years of prison writing
Chevigny, Bell Gale.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade Pub. : Distributed by Time Warner Trade Pub., 1999.
Physical Description:
xxxii, 349 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A PEN American Center prize anthology."
Added Author:
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS508.P7 D65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS508.P7 D65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"Doing time." For the prison writers whose work is included in this anthology, it means more than serving a sentence; it means staying alive and sane, preserving dignity, reinventing oneself, and somehow retaining one's humanity.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

During the quarter century that the writers' organization PEN has been conducting its prison writing contest, changes in U.S. society--the war on drugs, harsher sentences, and a mushrooming prison population that now totals some 1.8 million men and women--have radically altered the prison landscape. Wildly violent young inmates have made prisons horrifically violent places, and overmatched correctional personnel allow gangs to maintain a kind of balance of terror. More than ever, prisoners are disposable. Yet the writing presented here, the best from the last 25 years, is thoughtful, insightful, and at times even elegant. Grouped into topics such as "Time and Its Terms," "Routines and Ruptures," and "Getting Out," the book offers work by 51 writers, and each offers some insight, fact, thought, or image that will be wholly new to most readers. An introduction by the editor establishes a fine context for the essays and poems. An important addition to contemporary literature and certainly a valuable purchase for most public-library collections. --Thomas Gaughan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Since 1973, PEN has sponsored an annual literary competition for prisoners. This anthology, selected from roughly 1700 submissions, showcases efforts that range widely in form, subject matter and quality. In a foreword, Sister Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking fame touches on some of the questions readers will have: "Watch for the self-serving subtext. When your heart is moved, can you trust it? When you feel for the writers of these words, are you being had?" The book is broken into thematic sections such as "Initiation," "Time and Its Terms," "Family" and "Death Row." Though Chevigny made an attempt to include more women writers, women make up only 7% of the prison population, so the collection is overwhelmingly male. Anthony LaBaarca Falcone's poem, "A Stranger," uses circus imagery to mourn the daughter's childhood he missed. David Wood's eerily memorable story, "Feathers on the Solar Wind," is a searing portrait in which AIDS prods a man to accept personal and spiritual responsibility. Not surprisingly, most of these stories, poems and essays lack polish. But even some of the roughest pieces are driven by an emotional power that gives the sense of spending time with people who are composing not just for pleasure but for high stakesÄthe definition of a self, the confronting of personal demons, even redemption. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Prisoners have always writtenÄon the walls of their cells, in journals, or on chits smuggled out by visitorsÄbut their efforts have usually gone unnoticed. PEN is unique in that over the last 25 years it has collected and published short stories, poems, and essays written by prisoners across the country. This volume reprints the best of the lot. A few names are familiar, such as former Black Panther Kathy Boudin, but most are unknown. Not of first quality, but certainly of high amateur ranking, these works speak of the monotony of incarceration, the loss of outside contacts, and the longing for freedom. In her introduction, editor Chevigny (literature, SUNY at Purchase) discusses the changing face of prisons she has seen over the years and the therapeutic value of prison writing. The best selling point of this volume, however, is that, in a palatable way, it gives the reader a view of what it is like to be inside this strange and ominous world. Highly recommended.ÄFrances O. Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Sister Helen PrejeanBell Gale ChevignyM. A. JonesWilliam AbergWilliam OrlandoVictor HassineJudee NortonWilliam AbergJackie RuzasM. A. JonesM. A. JonesRoger JacoChuck CulhaneChuck CulhaneDiane Hamill MetzgerLarry BrattJ. R. GrindlayMichael HoganChuck CulhaneJimmy Santiago BacaLori Lynn McLuckieBarbara SaundersRaymond Ringo FernandezReginald LewisPatrick NolanScott A. AntworthDaniel RoseboomEasy WatersMichael E. SaucierMichael E. SaucierRichard StrattonRobert KelseyJimmy Santiago BacaJon Marc TaylorPaul St. JohnMichael E. SaucierJoseph E. SisslerVera MontgomeryMarilyn BuckJackie RuzasDavid WoodDax XenosHenry JohnsonPaul MulryanCharles P. NormanMichael Wayne HunterSusan RosenbergJimmy Santiago BacaDiane Hamill MetzgerBarbara SaundersAlejo Dao'ud RodriguezKathy BoudinHenry JohnsonJudee NortonAnthony La Barca FalconeJudith ClarkJudith ClarkKathy BoudinAllison BlakeRobert J. MoriartyJ. L. Wise, Jr.Joh SchillaciJon SchillaciDavid TaberDavid TaberHenry JohnsonJ. C. AmbercheleJ. C.AmbercheleHenry JohnsonAjamu C. B. HakiWilliam AbergM. A. JonesRobert M. RutanKathy BoudinJackie RuzasJarvis MastersStephen W. AndersonAnthony RossJudith Clark
Forewordp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xxxi
Initiationsp. 1
Prison Letterp. 4
Siemprep. 5
Dog Star Desperadop. 7
How I became a Convictp. 14
Arrivalp. 22
Time and Its Termsp. 25
Reductionsp. 27
Where or Whenp. 28
An Overturep. 28
Vivaldi on the Far Side of the Barsp. 29
Killing Timep. 30
After Almost Twenty Yearsp. 33
There Isn't Enough Breadp. 34
The Manipulation Game: Doing Life in Pennsylvaniap. 35
Giving Me a Second Chancep. 38
Myths of Darkness: The Toledo Madman and the Ultimate Freedomp. 42
Routines and Rupturesp. 47
Springp. 49
Autumn Yardp. 49
Letters Come to Prisonp. 50
Trina Mariep. 51
After Lights Outp. 52
Poem for the conguero in D yardp. 53
In the Big Yardp. 54
Old Man Motownp. 56
The Tower Pigp. 58
The Night the Owl Interruptedp. 68
Workp. 71
Chronicling Sing Sing Prisonp. 73
Cut Partnerp. 76
Gun Guardp. 78
Skyline Turkeyp. 80
Suicide!p. 86
Reading and Writingp. 97
Coming into Languagep. 100
Pell Grants for Prisonersp. 107
Tetrinap. 113
Sestina: Reflections on Writingp. 114
Behind the Mirror's Facep. 119
Black Flag to the Rescuep. 126
Players, Gamesp. 129
I See Your Workp. 131
Solidarity with cataractsp. 140
Clandestine Kissesp. 142
Ryan's Rusep. 143
Feathers on the Solar Windp. 153
Death of a Dukep. 164
Race, Chance, Changep. 175
First Day on the Jobp. 178
Eleven Days Under Siegep. 181
Pearl Got Stabbed!p. 191
Samp. 196
Lee's Timep. 206
Familyp. 217
Ancestorp. 219
Uncle Adamp. 220
The Red Dressp. 221
Ignorance Is No Excuse for the Lawp. 222
Our Skirtp. 225
The Ball Parkp. 226
Norton #59900p. 228
A Strangerp. 236
After My Arrestp. 237
To Vladimir Mayakovskyp. 238
A Trilogy of Journeyp. 241
The Worldp. 245
Prisons of Our Worldp. 247
Pilots in the War on Drugsp. 248
No Brownstones, Just Alleyways and Corner Pockets Fullp. 255
Americansp. 257
For Sam Manziep. 259
Diner at Midnightp. 260
The Filmp. 261
The 5-Spot Cafep. 263
Melodyp. 265
Melp. 275
Getting Outp. 285
Dream of Escapep. 287
After All Those Yearsp. 288
Stepping Away from My Fatherp. 290
To Those Still Waitingp. 291
The Breakp. 292
Death Rowp. 301
For Mumia: I Wonderp. 303
Easy to Killp. 304
Recipe for Prison Prunop. 304
Conversations with the Deadp. 306
Walker's Requiemp. 308
"Write a poem that makes no sense"p. 320
Notesp. 322
Text Creditsp. 325
About the Authorsp. 327