Because Akili wasn’t able to be here to read his poetry at his book launch, a number of people here in Ottawa each agreed to perform a poem or two on his behalf: John Akpata, Yavar Hameed, Free Will, Faye Estrella, Stephane L., Max Rowsell, Zoe Maggio, Peter Pants and others all participated. The event was hosted by Tara Lyons, and was taped for future radio broadcast in California where Akili might be able to listen to it.I’d never heard of Akili Castlin before, but what’s probably more surprising that I’ve heard of him now. So many prisoners disappear into solitary confinement and are permanently and completely isolated from the rest of the world. It’s a devastatingly lonely and alienating place to be. It destroys a lot of people. This book – Who Am Eye – is a testament to Akili’s capacity to flourish and remain creative under such dehumanizing conditions. It’s also a testament to the people on the outside who work with prisoners to help ensure they are not completely silenced and forgotten.
It seems like a long time ago now that I was helping retired bank robber Paddy Mitchell with his blog. He would write the material, snail-mail it to me or Linda, and we’d type it up and put it on his blog. It was a fairly slow, laborious process as blogging goes, but it meant a lot to Paddy to be a writer and to be part of the world outside prison. He died about two years ago now, of cancer, at the Butner Medical Center for inmates. His final book – a novel – is being published posthumously in the next week or two. I’ll be putting something on his blog soon about the book and how to order it.