MSU artist brings healing through poetry to prisons

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Guillermo Delgado is a huge poetry fan.

He sees power in creatively putting words together and he wanted Michigan’s inmates to feel that power too.

“I think poetry shines a light on the unseen and unheard,” Delgado says. “I think poetry has the power to heal, tell stories and give people hope. There’s a lack of light in prison and poetry shines bright.”

So in 2014 he started bringing a group of Michigan State poetry students to five different correctional facilities in mid-Michigan to work with incarcerated men and boys, to teach them how to write their own poetry. He shared some of their work today with the Lansing Poetry Club, including one from a 15-year old boy.

“I pretend to be home at night. I feel the need to be with my grandmother,” the boy writes. “I touch the cold wall of my room. I worry I won’t get to go home.”

It takes special training to meet the security demands of each prison and there’s never enough spots in the class for all of the interested inmates. But Delgado welcomes the challenges because of the way he sees poetry changing their lives.

“I talk to a lot of men, and they told me that before poetry, they didn’t feel like there was a good reason to live,” Delgado says. “A lot of them were on the verge of giving up, and poetry allowed them to express ideas, thoughts, concepts feelings…and those are all things human.”

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