Inside Poetry Voices from Prison

Prison and poetry don’t seem like two words that fit together. Prison and drugs would be more obvious. Or prison and violence. Or maybe prison and cockroaches. Badly run prisons with badly behaved prisoners, like Birmingham recently or Liverpool not so long ago or Exeter, give all prisoners a bad name. But there is another side to the story. This year I’ve edited a collection of poetry written by prisoners. It’s the seventh volume published by Inside Time the national newspaper for prisoners where all the poems have already appeared. This volume covers four years. With Victoria Grey, of the charity Give a Book, I’ve chosen the best. It also has the first Pinter prize in honour of playwright, Harold Pinter and given by his widow Antonia Fraser. It’s good to look behind the obvious, and these 200 pages show men and women who feel love, shame, joy, terrible sadness and hope for a better future. There is anger too, but often against themselves. How could they have got to where they are? These poems tell more about life behind bars than a hundred television reports or newspaper articles. A free copy of the book is in every prison library and it can also be ordered from Inside Time (£9.99).

Other Writing

Politics
‘But I was stopped in the street. A huge furry thing thrust in my face. Polly paused. ‘It was embarrassing.’… Read more
Friendship
It can start in all sorts of strange places: in a pram, up a climbing frame, over a desk, in hospital, unde… Read more
A Year in My Life
Can I have really made so many decisions in one year? Looking back, it seems almost impossible. In April I l… Read more
The Man who tried to Kill his Wife with a Goose
Christmas Eve started early for Lawrence. Daisy, given special permission to club till midnight, arrived ba… Read more
The Wild Cherry Tree
The cuckoo loved with true passion the Cherry tree’s silky pink-purplish trunk, its cascade of wedding-white fl… Read more

Thoughts

 

The Great War

Soon we will be remembering the centenary of the end of WW1. Sometimes called the Great War, it was fought from 28th July 1914 to 18th November 2018.

My grandfather, Brigadier General Thomas Longford who inspired me to write my novel, Glory, died on 21st August 1915, more than three years before the war ended. He fought at Gallipoli and, like so many of the 58,000 Allied forces who were killed there, his body was never found.

But my grandmother, the mother of six young children, never gave up the search. She hoped that the tattoo on his chest of his coat of arms might have preserved the skin. She was still sending letters to the War Graves Commission, pleading for information, in the 1920s, even though by then it had been recorded that, in all probability he had burned in furze fires, dead or perhaps only wounded, after his charge up Scimitar Hill.

Strangely, even without a body, there is a grave for Brigadier General Longford. I saw it myself and laid flowers in my grandfather’s memory.

His disappearance and my grandmother’s inconsolable search, brings home the particular sadness of a death which is also a disappearance and is mourned in absentio. The sadness is even greater in his because the Gallipoli Campaign was ill-conceived, mismanaged and ultimately pointless. You can read all about it in my novel, Glory.