Op-Ed

Inmates freed by their poetry

Kathie Klarreich, left, shares a laugh with inmates taking part in the O, Miami poetry celebration. To find out more about View-Through go to: www.viewthrough.miami or www.exchange-for-change.org.
Kathie Klarreich, left, shares a laugh with inmates taking part in the O, Miami poetry celebration. To find out more about View-Through go to: www.viewthrough.miami or www.exchange-for-change.org. Courtesy of Kathie Klarreich

When students in an Exchange for Change writing class talk about words, it can be personal.

Words are one of the few things over which these students have control because they are in prison. Convict, inmate, felon, criminal. These men and women have been called these — or worse — before.

But now they’re engaged in changing the conversation. If you Google “Miami inmate,” instead of the stereotypical predictive responses — Florida Department of Corrections, or deaths, or attacks — you might find one of their poems.

Students of the nonprofit Exchange for Change prison writing program have paired up with O, Miami to create the single-line metaphors below to remind the outside world that their creativity doesn’t end behind bars. The joint project is called View-Through. Here is a sampling of their work:

Miami inmates are a device to tell time

Miami inmates are what becomes of the chicken before I fry it up

Miami inmates are items of furniture for frightened people to lie down and rest upon

Miami inmates are believing in the unseen

Miami inmates are light of the world, bone of men

Kathie Klarreich is the chair of Exchange for Change.

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