In the spring of 1985, Tannenbaum was invited to recite her poems at San Quentin, California's infamous maximum-security prison. Afterward, she was invited to teach a creative writing course in poetry. Tannenbaum taught for one year on a once-a-week basis and was a poet-in-residence for the following three years. This book is designed to tell readers what the author learned in her four years of teaching inmates. She spent her first years working to earn their trust, occasionally stepping into minefields and overstepping boundaries imposed by the prison to protect her. Through her experience, she learned to protect the inmates' privacy at all costs, and therein lies the problem with this book. Tannenbaum tells the reader that one inmate stalked her and another became a soulmate, yet the details are unconvincing. The problem is that she seems to care too much about her students to reveal their stories, and without revealing their stories she remains unable to tell her own.APam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Florence
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Tannenbaum, a poet, teacher, and passionate community art advocate, shares her frank and moving recollections of teaching poetry at San Quentin prison during the 1980s. As she chronicles her demanding routines and indelible revelations in this realm of caged bodies and blazing souls, she articulates her belief that creativity is our birthright, no matter where we reside, and describes the liberating power of poetry as experienced by her students, men who have committed crimes but who write poems of heart-jolting beauty and insight. While Tannenbaum taught her smart, talented, and sensitive students what she knew about writing, they taught her more than she "could ever have imagined about what it is to be human." In a cruel and myopic time in which unlimited funds are allocated for building prisons while schools and the arts go begging, Tannenbaum reminds readers not only that men and women behind bars are human, and therefore deserving of our respect and compassion, but that they have much to tell us about our propensity for both barbarism and beauty. --Donna Seaman Donna Seaman
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