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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/13/12

Literature in a Locked Down Land

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Message William T. Hathaway
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Working class literature is alive and well and living in prison. It is "well" not in the sense of being contented and happy but rather of being vital and impassioned. And it is imprisoned not just in the sense of being locked behind bars but also of being locked into poverty. Some prisons have walls of iron and stone, others walls of economics and racism. It is their efforts to escape from this second prison that get most inmates incarcerated in the first. As Mumia Abu-Jamal said, "I've been in prison my whole life."

The life-constricting pressures in both types of prisons can crush some psyches and produce diamonds of art and wisdom in others. Struggle: A Magazine of Revolutionary Proletarian Literature has been publishing the diamonds (along with some glass) since 1985 . Reading it is to rediscover the power of art to give us insights and inspire us to action, an invigorating change from the vapid musings and trivial subjectivity that pass for "literary" these days. By showing us the multi-layered oppression surrounding us and the strength of the human spirit caught within that, Struggle is contributing to a culture of resistance and eventually of revolution.

For example:

Doing time in Folsom State

By Arvan Washington III

Sleep slips away like tendrils of fog

before a Lompoc Valley breeze, a morning

sun dawns upon another moonless night.

I amble aimlessly, wandering twisted corridors

inside a convoluted mind seeking the solace

of an earthly slumber, yet find myself lost

amidst the wreckage of yesteryear: a Bermuda

Triangle existence where disappearing smiles

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William T. Hathaway is the author of eight books and was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. His environmental novel, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a (more...)
 

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