Tag Archives: poem


INK: Prison Writing Contest Finalists Celebrate

July 4th AnnouncementAs we celebrate our nation’s freedom, Vidahlia Press is prepared to release the INK: A Prison Writing Contest Winners! Over one hundred talented writers from across the nation were identified as finalists. As you might surmise awarding prizes to the incarcerated can be a complicated matter. So we are still awaiting all the permissions necessary to ensure that we are able to provide the prizes to the winners.

We are working tirelessly on the anthology, From These Many Rooms, an inspiring collection that offers stories full of hope while teaching lessons in resilience, compassion, and redemption. These compelling, creative, and authentic works will inspire us all to live beyond boundaries and to visualize that the imagination is larger than any restraint or confinement. I hope you will agree.

We have included a randomly selected poem from a finalist who has already given permission, “Bird’s Eye View” by Sydney Duff.  Please stay tuned for the announcement of our 2014 INK Winners coming soon!

Bird’s Eye View

here we have all
the familiar images
of incarceration:
walls and bars, calendars and clocks
and so much fear

but what about the smell
of morning on a Sunday?
the white crescent
of a benevolent moon?
who notices a sky so blue
that it pierces, splits you open
like a ripe piece of fruit?

here we speak
in riddles and loops
parables of purgatory,
terrestrial half-truths

but what of the singing sparrows
perched on the razor wire,
the paper rustle of the trees?
what of the ballet
of the circling hawk,
the waddling arcs
of Canadian geese?

do the birds know
this is prison?
do they care?
do they distinguish
between greenness
of this grass
and that which grows elsewhere?

here we walk long circles
orbiting what little we see
wearing out our hamster wheels:
“when I’m home…
when I’m free…”

do the birds sit
and stare at the bars?
or do they flit through
the space in between?

Sydney Duff, Vidahlia Press & Publishing House, Inc.


Poem “LETTERS AND TRAINS” Examines the Significance of Receiving Mail in Prison


Letters arrive as if by train at a station platform

The puff and steam from men of all sizes and power.

Awaiting crowds crammed and craning on deck

To see the size and heft of it and in the mouth of it.

Peering, like through small car windows, even

from the corner, across from government art.

Himself the towering locomotive between two tracks of tables

Is the Conductor, steeped in blue with loops of keys, shouts:

“Mail Call,” “Mail Call,” “Last Call for Mail Call”

And shouting the names, Lopez, White, Hernandez, Coker…

All listen, the hopeful closer, the privileged closest,

The lost or forgotten eerily busy in their houses.

The mail bag emptied, the men exhale the final steam.

My name is called and I run alongside, late, waving

The loved ones have arrived, sent by partners, family.

My passengers manifest and take my hand, overhead

passing through packed uniforms to my numbered house.

Stacked by subject; letters, newspapers, novels, law.

First, we chat and laugh out loud as we used to do.

The stories alive and memories return like the children

In The Color Purple, in majestic colors

And we later sit in silence too, like we used to do.

In school, at the firm, at home, before court.

I then introduce them to others, interested or in need.

Sometimes we have no visitors among arrivals

So we return the next day and each succeeding day

Turned away, hard men blink like boys.

Sometimes it takes years to stop greeting the train

Most often we never stop, still watching, listening, hoping

Such is the power and allure of letters in prison.