This page is a place where all writers can share their experiences and feelings about participating or being involved with the JustWrite program.
Just Write has been a very interesting experience for me so far. Every
week I am looking forward to hear other people’s stories – little bits
and pieces of other people’s lifes, which sound both so far away and
so incredibly close at the same time. I love hearing the pieces of my
classmates as well as those of the guys participating from MDC. All
those stories and poems are so beautifully written – and even if they
often carry feelings of pain, anger and sadness they also carry so
much honesty and strenght and are so full of life. I really feel those
feelings expressed when we read the guy’s and our pieces in class – a
lot of them have touched me so deep inside that I had to hold my
breath. Reading other people’s words is often a really eye-opening
experience and helps me seeing sharp and clear our common human
essence and soul – that often becomes invisible in every day life.
~OB, Writer from Georgetown University
JustWrite is words
A struggle against silence
A prayer carried by an Eagle
JustWrite is truth
There is no wrong
When feelings rise to the surface
Like words on fire
Rising up through lungs
Breath pushing verse
Verse pushing consciousness
Consciousness pushing awareness
JustWrite is inspiration
Like a Phoenix
Rising from the ashes
A spiritual awakening
or like the soul felt in the sheets of sound from John Coltrane
But when I step in this room
I want to tap my feet
Sway my hips
Snap my fingers
This is my Church
Once a week
JustWrite is freedom
Thoughts reaching beyond
Bars of steel, walls of concrete
Igniting inner flame
The power to speak
The power to advance the mind.
JustWrite is a voice
Found in lyrical formation
Of deep feelings
It brings feet to knees
Hearts skip a beat
Poets, writers, lyricists, artists
And spit the truth.
~DG, Lead Facilitator of JustWrite
Where do I begin? What has all this meant? You know, over the years I have done some amazing things in the poetry world; I don’t mean that I have accomplished some amazing things, I mean the experiences I have had that came with an award, a trophy, being recognized – and not – have all been incredible. However, as one does something for long enough, over the years, a list of prioritized special moments, starts to build itself.
Artists can relate – we all have those favorite shows, favorite workshops, stages, opening acts, headliners, cross-collaborators and otherwise… For me, the superior, supreme, overall most rewarding thing, situation, and state of being – IS JustWrite!
Twelve years in, and I have finally found what feeds my soul beyond the page. Poetry has saved my life. I have eaten well, traveled the majority of this beautiful country, and been on some stages with the best; however, it is in that room, on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, at the Metropolitan Detention Center, that I have noticed moments in my “performing artist life,” that I have ultimately felt most alive!
It’s been over a year now – and nearly 6-months with many of the writers that are part of the most recent group. JustWrite is growing in ways that I would have never imagined. I am very thankful for having acquired a partner in this project, that shares the desire, passion, artistic heart, and compassionate soul that I do. We are a team that is making things happen – the website www.nowrongjustwrite.org has received thousands of views, without any type of press so far. The writers are growing and sharing, memorizing, and dialoguing. The workshops are filled with an energy that keeps participants grounded, insightful, positive, and set with their minds on survival.
The conversations that are being had in our classroom are incredible. They talk about: life, living, loss, family, humanity, justice, deceit, pain, anger, frustration, joy, love, happiness and more. Through conversation, rather than baiting questions, our participants reflect on the power of poetry quite regularly. They talk about the humanizing nature of poetry being out there for all to see; their poetry, on a website where their family members can see a side of them, that maybe they have never witnessed. We have folks talk about connecting with their children through spoken word. We have inmate authors who talk about positive conversations with family, because they have this outlet to share, a life-line of sorts. Well, it’s a life-line for me just the same! There are days in this world that I feel alone, lost, tired, stuck, struggling and hungry – and then I walk through the secured perimeter at MDC. All of those feelings go away – I know at that moment, that for two hours, nothing else is going to matter – and it doesn’t. In that room, we simply matter to each other – we are a group, a community, authors, poets, and performers – we exist, and we are beautifully human – alive without need for explanation, understanding, or interruption – for tow hours nothing else matters, we, JustWrite!
~CC, Lead Facilitator of JustWrite
An elipsis because the lives on the
paper don’t stop just because the words
People can’t be defined by the words that
they write in a poem or essay.
People can’t be defined
And people shouldn’t be confined in an inhumane way.
We’re not animals.
None of us humans are.
And when I say us and we
I say what I really do mean
because those bars cannot
blind me from seeing
you and you and you.
But why not?
Isn’t that what injustice is supposed to do?
And we can write about it. We can just write
about it because it exists.
And as long as the communication isn’t
broken we can work together to
fix the system.
Injustice exists, crime exists, manipulation
exists, love exists and freedom, well,
for me just write is
a way to let me into the lives of others.
~CCC, Writer From Georgetown University
A Pandora’s box of questions avoided
misconceptions pushed aside
A WMD meant to destroy
the snow globe
where I had unknowingly let my mind stultify
JustWrite is a window
to cells, to unrelatable violence
and to common humanity
It is a rediscovery of myself
and through it
a rediscovery of what it means
to be human
A bridging of the unbridgable
an unraveling of Minos’ Labyrinth
A discovery that the experiences that on the surface
set us apart
are the same experiences
that can lead us to dig up
we try to insist doesn’t exist
~RT, Writer from Georgetown University
JustWrite is freedom to express. It is more than a blank piece of paper and flowing ink. It is more than rambling and it is more than thoughts. JustWrite is a second chance; a second chance to find yourself or be found.
JustWrite is about mistakes, it is about experiences and it is about do-overs. It is a time to see that piece of your soul pour out into a piece of paper. It is about editing, scratching out, rewriting, rereading. It is not about proofreading our uncensored views, it is about self-examination.
JustWrite is more than this pen, it is a line of communication, a peak into someone’s most innermost secrets, and a light that shows us all we’re more alike than we know.
JustWrite is ten minutes out of this stressful life we claim to be living to give ourselves the chance to laugh, the chance to understand, the chance to cry. It is a chance to be human, full of flaws and talents, full of life and full of us.
~AC, Writer from Georgetown University
JustWrite has opened my mind to the idea that there is a writer, a poet, a storyteller within all of us, and that the act of writing is fulfilling and gratifying in and of itself.
The written word is a memory lost, an experience never shared and a connection never made. Through JustWrite, I have come to realize that while people come from different backgrounds and have different histories, we all share a common humanity, have similar needs and a desire for understanding and mutual respect. Personally, I never realized how much of an outlet writing could be for me until JustWrite. Weekly class meetings weren’t enough to quench this new thirst for writing, and I began keeping a journal hat I have been writing poetry in. It helps calm me, lets me see the beauty in my problems and gives them meaning in my life. This is the gift that JustWrite has given me.
~SLC, Writer from Georgetown University
one word to sum up the butterflies
in my stomach when I speak
When I realized I opened my mouth
and didn’t falter
Like a cool drink of water
to the parched creative/emotional wasteland
a garden is growing now
But it is so much more
I get to hear others
or read if they are too shy
Words cross pollinating on the breeze
from as far away as the west
voices behind bars can speak and sing
even through the pages of
a computer screen.
with more than a turkey dinner can give
the life I live in perspective
by the symphony of sounds around me.
each phrase speaks of a soul
that’s whispering who they are
in mysterious ways
sometimes phased by the world around
I’m afraid I’ll scare you
with how passionately
I listen and read each word
It’s my lifeline here
to the real world,
one created by our voices
living breathing in harmony.
~KEW, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite is hard, because I have to
talk to myself.
It was very difficult especially in the beginning. But over time,
it became more and more natural.
My JustWrite is not even a poem, but
a conversation with me, which I enjoy.
I love listening to people’s poems.
They write with their hearts.
It encourages me to face myself seriously.
I try to think what JustWrite means to me for this one semester.
I don’t know. I can’t tell what it did to me.
Well I guess that’s because it comes from myself, instead of
being given by others passively.
JustWrite is something I do. Something I squeeze
~NO, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite is a lot of things. It’s a sense of gratitude for getting 10-15 minutes in which we are asked to do nothing but think and write, in whatever format comes to mind. It’s a chance to sit down and follow a train of thought that I might not otherwise explore because I have too many other things to do, and it’s the joy in discovering where that train of thought leads.
JustWrite is also the most amazing way to learn about people. We hear things in JustWrite that would normally take hours of conversation to bring up, and the fact that people share these things gives us an off closeness – we may not “hang out” together, but we trust each other enough to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable.
And I’m amazed every time I read or listen to something a classmate has written for JustWrite, because it’s always so beautiful or honest or funny, or simply true.
And although I’m running out of time to explain it, JustWrite is also a window, a thread, the string connecting two tin can telephones, or three, or four – a way for us to send our words to people outside of our class and to hear their words back in return.
~JA, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite has allowed me to hear stories
I would not have heard; gain perspective
that was not available
But perhaps more than anything JustWrite
has shown me the power of language
and words shaped into beautiful phrases
Artful expressions illuminating painful,
I have found that poetry and words are not
exclusive; they will work with anyone
who wants to try his or her hand
at language, and deep expression
So thank you to all those who
participated and to all those
who taught me the power
of words. I’ve learned so much
from what you’ve shared.
~MF, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite is more than a pen and a pad. JustWrite is more than letters and words on a piece of paper, it is a mental and emotional bridge. A bridge that connects the seemingly unconnected communities, east and west, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. Prisoners and freedom. JustWrite has meant so many different things to so many different people. It’s amazing to think that with a simple stroke of a pen, perspectives can be changed, smiles can be made, and communities can be mended. All this, within a semester. Imagine what JustWrite would be able to do with 6 months, or a year. For me…JustWrite…is limitless. As human beings, the power of self expression is the single greatest tool we have. JustWrite is a beautiful display of that. I may not be able to see JustWrite stretch its wings to its fullest potential, but I’m sure the world will soon see some arge wings.
~RD, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite is a new chance
to remind me that when overcome with stress
and my hair is wet and
my makeup is smudged
And I haven’t done laundry in three weeks
All that’s left in the pantry is pasta and teabags
Even then – especially then -
I have to take the time to write
Remember when I wanted to write fiction novels one day?
Where did that go?
I know I know where it went, and I’m trying to dig it out,
replant it, water it and feed it
And let it grow in the sun again
JustWrite is a chance to be humbled
Because we all have our own sorrows in our own way
But I’m overwhelmed by the generosity
of people so far away
To share their beautiful reflections
I’m humbled to see something so painful
Be transformed into something so beautiful
I can’t forget or deny my privilege in this
So sometimes I’m not sure how to relate
And I hold back, I shrink, I fade
But if these are words and stories you want me to read
If you want to include me and ask for my stories back
I’m happy to be here
~MM, Georgetown University, Maryland
For me JustWrite was a great experience – and a great experiment.
I think it’s a really cool idea and has great potential to connect many different types of people. It showed me both how different and how similar people’s experiences are and convinced me that writing can be a very deep, very personal, very honest and very healing process.
There were days when I found it very hard to come up with something and to JUST start writing. It’s not always as easy as it might seem to just write.
That is one of the reasons why I really admire my peers and the guys from MDC – all of them did an amazing job in teaching me about life, about different experiences and about our common soul. They made me laugh and they made me cry – a lot of the writings touched me really deep. That is why I want to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and your stories with me – and I want to tell you that I really appreciate that you shared your best and your worst sides with me – nothing less than little pieces of yourself.
~OB, Georgetown University, Maryland
Something new. Unconventional. Thought-provoking. Cool.
I’ve never written about abstract prompts in a classroom setting – or ever – really. I wanted to say that it helps me, and maybe others – think, I mean really think about the topics and how they relate to myself. To really think about what I think. I never saw writing as a channel of expression – but, I can now see how it could be for other people.
Not even just that though. JustWrite opened my eyes and brain to inmates. I never realized how smart, how eloquent, or how poetic they were. They had a lot to say, and I’m glad that we got a chance to listen. It’s programs like these that better people, humanity in general. People are brilliant, if we gave them a chance – they could show it. I think this program has shown that brilliance shouldn’t be solely defined by grades, SAT scores, or what school one attended.
~HA, Georgetown University, Maryland
JustWrite is something I could never do before this class. How does one just write? Allow the words to effortlessly flow from brain to pen to paper. The students in the class and the inmates have amazed me with their creativity and their ability to just write.
I also enjoyed listening to those students whose frist language was not English read their work. They could just write so well in a language that was not their own.
To just write is difficult and it is something that I have improved, but still have a long way to go. But every week I enjoy the challenge translating the prompt into some form of expression of my own.
~SG, Georgetown University, Maryland
…more difficult than I imagined. I’m never usually at a loss for words, but when I have to commit them to the page, I find myself doubting what I have to say. After I hear or read what others have to say, I find myself wishing I had explored the prompt from another angle or wanting to elaborate. Sometimes, when I go home, I do elaborate. When we read aloud in class, I always take notes, jot down phrases or feelings that I like. I’ll roll them around in my brain, attaching them to thoughts and experiences that I have, but always remembering where they came from. I’m used to reading and writing in prose, and when I hear and read the poetry, I both long to write like that and fear the loss of familiar structure and conventions. But I know that resisting conventions is often a good thing for me. Stepping out of my comfort zone always has the greatest potential for growth.
~AVK, Georgetown University, Maryland
After reading and listening to what the students from Georgetown wrote in response to a prompt, MDC writers respond and discuss what the write exchange means to them. Listen here.