Write Or Die: Poetry, Prose & Condz Vol. II
Compilation zine, various authors, Issue 2, 52 pgs, betweenthebars.org/group/papco, free to prisoners
After a decade of being bombarded by self-published materials, it’s nice to be reminded of just how vital and subversive this tradition can be. Write or Die is a mostly handwritten publication coming out of death row at the world-famous San Quentin prison in California. The work of a creative writing group within death row, the contents here reflect a diversity of approaches, experiences, and talents that are the hallmarks of this type of compilation.
It’s hard to be put in the position of reviewer when I get something of this caliber in the mail. My first instinct is simply to be straight-up: you should read this. The self-expression of condemned people is so important to support and get familiar with. Without reducing the experiences and expressions of these men to their sentences, it has to be said that they are often portrayed by media and hardly ever given the platform to tell their stories themselves. In this case, they made their own platform.
But as I just mentioned, these pages contain much more than the fight against state violence: celebrations of fatherhood, love, expressions of solidarity with Black Lives Matter on the outside, thoughts on the value of self-expression and more. The creators are also looking for collaborators on the outside for the expansion of the project, which is all the more reason to check them out and find out if that collaborator is you. So much respect for the work of these folks. (Stephane Doucet)