It is with great pride that PrisonEducation.com announces its entry into the realm of book publishing. Middle Street Publishing, PrisonEducation.com’s owner, is now entering the publishing industry with a focus on providing much-needed texts. Middle Street Publishing, a South Carolina non-profit dedicated to social justice, is interested in publishing books that are needed, but might not be commercial blockbusters. The point is to bring such books to the marketplace so that those who need them will have access to them.
The staff members of Middle Street Publishing are old hats when it comes to the book publishing industry. With over 10 published books to their staff’s credit (their own books, not published by MSP), hundreds of book reviews, hundreds of articles, scores of texts edited, and a number of successful book promotional campaigns under their belts, this is a group of talented book creation, marketing, and promotion professionals who know what it takes to make a successful book and market it effectively. This group of experienced book industry professionals is now interested in publishing for the prison education and prison reform marketplaces.
The purpose behind the Middle Street Publishing/PrisonEducation.com book publishing venture is to find authors who have something important to say in the prison education and prison reform arenas and help them bring their work to the marketplace. Their publishing strategy is simple:
~Offer authors healthy contracts.
Prisoners have long written poetry from inside the prison walls. For incarcerated men and women—as for all who have the urge to write poetry—Robert Frost’s words ring true: the poem “begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” Poetry is the need to express what’s locked up inside, and for the prisoner, the bars are real.
Sending a poem into the blogosphere is, however, a relatively new way for prisoners to find their voice. Boston University’s Robert Pinsky, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, says in an interview on Big Think that prisoners serving a life sentence often write the best poetry since they have a lot of time to reflect and read. While many poems by prisoners wouldn’t make it past your high school English teacher, some talented jailed New England poets are emerging online.
The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild publishes poetry once a month from those first published in its Mass Dissent magazine. The power of poetry is what helped Douglas Weed, incarcerated at MCI Norfolk, to dig deep into his crime and his subsequent remorse is not unlike Raskolnikov’s soul searching in Crime and Punishment. Here is Weed’s Ode to a Prison Prophet from October 2012:
I am pleased to report that after a two week hiatus, we finally had class. What a relief to arrive at the FCI-Petersburg Education Department and find the doors unlocked. I know that both my students and I found this to be a much needed reprieve After all, collectively we were becoming discouraged because of all the cancelled classes.
While this is still speculation at this point, I hear that there was a shake-up in terms of which education staff work on which days. If this last past Monday was an indicator, then my life and my class just became that much less stressful. This is because the Supervisor of Education was on duty Monday night and had everything moving along as it should.