It turns out there are as many ways to meditate on “power” as there are poets and writers in the city. The work here touches on the deep undertow of memory, the immense force of the natural world, the power of music and magic, as always, the shifting dynamics between teacher and student, parent and child, lover and beloved.
Yes: power is a corrupting force. Yes: power is abused, and terribly. Yes: we must speak truth to the power that reproduces inequality and perpetrates injustice. But power is also beautiful, because it belongs to each of us.
Every time we write a poem. Every time we give ourselves the quiet to think a bit more deeply about what we feel to be true. Every time we greet one another with a little more openness, curiosity, and love. And every time we witness an injustice, our power is there, waiting for the spark of electricity to travel from heart to brain to vocal cords to tongue to teeth to the enormous air, to say, we must do better.
Thank you, as always, to the APIARY staff, who teaches us the power of generosity and commitment every day; to Decarcerate PA and Aja Beech, our APIARY 7 collaborators, for their work on behalf of prison reform in Pennsylvania and beyond; to the authors, for sharing their powerful voices with us; and to you, the readers, whose eyes and hearts conduct enough voltage to light up our city.
It was a moving experience to work on the Special Section of APIARY 7 in collaboration with Sarah Morris from Decarcerate, PA, and Aja Beech, an activist, poet and board member of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Beech says in her essay [available in-full online], “With 1 in 31 Americans experiencing some form of correctional control, it is guaranteed that any person reading this edition of Apiary has a form of personal experience with their states’ justice system. The good news is that personal experience can motivate us to change this system. The most important thing any one of us can do is be involved.
My father worked in the Philadelphia Prison’s System for almost 30 years, retiring as a captain. When I visited the prison over the years, I found out how hard it was to experience–even briefly–what it felt like to have someone have ultimate power over one’s life. This section is special because it is important for us to witness the insurmountable ability of the human spirit to overcome the hard press of concrete and bars, to find some way to stand up and make its voice heard, to say, “I live. I breathe. I count.” It is easy to say, “Oh well they’ve committed crimes.”
It is hard to look at the broken pieces in our system and say, well yes; something is terribly wrong. We do not all lead lives of privilege. And true privilege is to have no awareness that you have freedom attached to your skin color or gender, or that your privilege separates you, keeps you protected.
I began to write at five-years-old to save my life, a necessity, not a hobby. I would not have survived my environment without it, and I testify wholeheartedly that I very nearly didn’t. Writing is freedom. The incarcerated authors that I was blessed to have read have–through their writing–carved a much deserved space for themselves in our magazine. Let their voices sing loud. Let the voices of all those imprisoned sing loud. Let their spirits be free.