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Disguised as Poetry
Disguised As A Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin
$27.45
Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Sep.01.2000
  • 9781555534523
  • Northeastern

Judith gives an overview of the book:

When Judith Tannenbaum last met with her poetry writing class at San Quentin prison, one of the students commented, "Now I'm going to give you an assignment: write about these past four years from your point of view; tell your story; let us know what you learned." This beautifully crafted memoir is the fulfillment of that assignment. In stirring and intimate prose, Tannenbaum details the challenges, rewards, and paradoxes of teaching poetry to maximum-security inmates convicted of capital crimes. Recounting how she and her students shared profound and complicated lessons about humanity and life both inside and outside San Quentin's walls, Tannenbaum tells provocative stories of obsession, racism, betrayal, despair, courage, and beauty. Contrary to the growing public perception of prisoners as demons, the men in this poetry class-Angel, Coties, Elmo, Glenn...
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When Judith Tannenbaum last met with her poetry writing class at San Quentin prison, one of the students commented, "Now I'm going to give you an assignment: write about these past four years from your point of view; tell your story; let us know what you learned." This beautifully crafted memoir is the fulfillment of that assignment.

In stirring and intimate prose, Tannenbaum details the challenges, rewards, and paradoxes of teaching poetry to maximum-security inmates convicted of capital crimes. Recounting how she and her students shared profound and complicated lessons about humanity and life both inside and outside San Quentin's walls, Tannenbaum tells provocative stories of obsession, racism, betrayal, despair, courage, and beauty. Contrary to the growing public perception of prisoners as demons, the men in this poetry class-Angel, Coties, Elmo, Glenn, Richard, Spoon-emerge not as beasts or heroes but as human beings with expressive voices, thoughts, and feelings strikingly similar to the free.

Tannenbaum provides revealing views of conditions in the cellblocks and shows how the realities of prison life often paralleled her own life experiences. She also relates such events as visits to her group by prominent poets (including Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz); a prison production of Waiting for Godot sponsored by Samuel Beckett himself; and the presentation of her students' work to a class of sixth and eighth graders, who connected to the prisoners' words by writing their own poems to the inmates.

This honest, unbiased account of how one woman artist came to share purpose and inspiration with the prisoners at San Quentin demonstrates the power of human bonds and the power of poetry and other art forms as a means of self-expression and communication within and beyond locked cells.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Judith

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher who cares very deeply about a vision and practice of art-making that includes all of us. She has received two California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence grants. The first of these allowed her to teach poetry at San Quentin for three...

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Published Reviews

Jan.11.2008

Say how ya doing
Outside world?
Do you remember me?
I’m that intricate part
Missing from the whole
The one y’all decided to forget.
(p. 29)

...
Jan.11.2008

When I think about prison in this country, poetry is not the first word that leaps to mind. This despite the evocative images of their cold grayness, acid fluorescent lighting, and clanging entry gates....