Members of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing (MRPCW) journal Editorial Committee read their favorite journal pieces from last 11 years on Monday, Nov. 18. The event took place at 734 Brewing Company (15 E. Cross St.) from 6-7:30 p.m.
The MRPCW is a journal of creative writing that showcases incarcerated Michigan writers’ written work. The journal contains collected works of both prose and poetry.
Dakota Avenue West Publishing has published the journal on an annual basis and has published 11 volumes, as of February 2019. These volumes are available at Literati and Bookbound bookstores in Ann Arbor. The most recent volume of the journal is titled “Surrenderance.”
The MRPCW is a faucet of the Prisoner Creative Arts Project, a program founded in 1990 and facilitated through the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts-Residential College. The aim of the project is to bring “those impacted by the justice system and the University of Michigan community into artistic collaboration for mutual learning and growth,” according to the Project’s website.
The event consisted of five separate speakers who read selected poems, including Cozine A. Welch Jr., the event MC and managing editor of MRPCW. Welch has been the MRPCW editor for the last two years. He was also involved in the editing process of volume 11, along with the whole of the editing committee, during his first year as managing editor.
Welch has been involved with the MRPCW since the journal’s second volume, when he submitted his initial work to the publication while incarcerated at Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Michigan. Welch’s first submission to the publication was published in 2008, and MRPCW would publish the work he submitted each subsequent year of his incarceration.
“Through that process, the feedback I would get, the critiques on my writing, actually improved my writing,” Welch said in an interview. “A lot of us inside ... either write to people we know and love or we just write personally. We don't have any formal experience or training. We’re just trying to put words on paper to express emotion, but the Review gives us feedback, it gives us resources to check out ... and it improved me as a writer.”
Welch stated during the reading that what was read was not “prison poetry.”
To clarify what he meant by “prison poetry,” he said: “Prison poetry is an idea that assumes that if you are going to write poetry while you are in prison, it has to be about stark conditions, [about] confinement [and similar] issues. ... It has to do with ‘You are in prison.’
Something about the cell block, something about the food, instead of about you having experiences as a human being, who happens to be incarcerated. A writer who happens to be incarcerated, which, of course, is part of your story but is not all that you are.”
Among presenters at the reading was Alex Nuttle, a recent 2019 graduate at Eastern Michigan University. The works that he read consisted of “Surgery” by James Galt, as well as “Words on a Page” and “This is a Poem” by James Fuson.