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← The power of poetry in prisions | Cristina Domenech | TEDxRíodelaPlata

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Showing Revision 6 created 10/31/2014 by Ivana Korom.

  1. It's said that to be a poet you have to
    descend to the underworld once.
  2. The first time I entered the prison,
    I was not surprised by the noise
  3. of the padlocks, the closing doors,
    or the bars,
  4. or anything of all the things
    I had imagined.
  5. Maybe because the prison
    is in a quite open space.
  6. You can see the sky.
  7. Seagulls fly through the sky and
    you think you are next to the sea.
  8. That you are really close to the beach.
  9. But in fact, the gulls go to the dump
    near the prison looking for food.
  10. I continued walking in and I suddenly saw
    inmates moving across the corridors.
  11. It was as if I stepped back
    and thought that
  12. I could have perfectly been
    one of them.
  13. If I had another story,
    another context, another luck.
  14. Because nobody, nobody,
    can choose where to be born.
  15. In 2009 I was invited to join
    a project
  16. the San Martín National University
    has in the Unit 48,
  17. to coordinate a writing workshop.
  18. The prison service ceded some
    land at the end of the prison.
  19. Right there they constructed the
    building of the University Center.
  20. The first time I met with the prisoners,
  21. I asked them why they were
    asking for a writing workshop
  22. and they told me they wanted
    to put on paper
  23. all that they couldn't say
    and do.
  24. There I decided that I wanted
    poetry to enter the prison.
  25. Then I told them why we don't
    work with poetry,
  26. if they knew what poetry was.
  27. Nobody had a clue about what
    poetry really was.
  28. Besides, they explained to me
    that the workshop was not only
  29. for graduated inmates,
    but also for
  30. all the common inmates.
  31. And then I said that to start
    this workshop I needed
  32. some tool that we all have.
  33. And that tool was language.
  34. So, we had language, we had the workshop.
    We could have poetry.
  35. But what I didn't consider was
    the inequality also in prison.
  36. Many of them that didn't even
    have a complete primary education.
  37. Many couldn't use cursive,
    but hardly print.
  38. They didn't write fluently either.
  39. So, we started looking for short
    poems. Short, but powerful indeed.
  40. And started to read, and read
    an author and another author
  41. and by reading those short poems,
    they all begin to realize
  42. that what the poetic language did
    was to break
  43. a certain logic and
    it created another system.
  44. Breaking the logic of language is
    also breaking the logic of the system
  45. they are used to respond to.
  46. So a new system appeared,
    some new rules
  47. that made them understand really fast,
    but really fast,
  48. that with the poetic language they would
    absolutely say what they wanted.
  49. It's said that to be a poet you have to
    descend to the hell once.
  50. And they have plenty of hell.
    Plenty of hell.
  51. One of them once said:
    "In prison you never sleep.
  52. You can never sleep in jail.
    You can never close your eyelids".
  53. Then, I did like this now,
  54. a moment of silence and tell them:
    That is poetry, that.
  55. The prison universe is there,
    in hand.
  56. All this you say,
    that you never sleep.
  57. This exudes fear. All the unwritten.
    All this is poetry.
  58. So we started appropriating
    that hell.
  59. And we plunged ourselves into,
    the seventh circle.
  60. In that seventh circle of hell,
    our own and so beloved circle,
  61. they learned that walls could
    be invisible, windows could
  62. yell and that we could hide
    inside the shadows.
  63. The first year the workshop
    had finished, we organized
  64. a little closing party
    as they are done
  65. when a job is done
    with so much love.
  66. You want to celebrate
    and have a party.
  67. We called family, friends,
    the university authorities.
  68. The only thing they had to do
    was reading a poem,
  69. receiving their diploma, applause and
    that was our simple party.
  70. The only thing I want to leave you with
    is the moment those men,
  71. at times huge when they stand by me.
  72. Or very young boys,
    but with an enormous pride,
  73. they held their paper and trembled
    like kids and sweated
  74. and read their poems with their
    voice completely broken.
  75. That moment made me think a lot
    that surely most of them
  76. were applauded for the first time
    for something they had done.
  77. In prison there are things
    that can't be done.
  78. In prison you can't dream,
    in prison you can't cry.
  79. There are words that are virtually
    forbidden like the word time,
  80. the word future, the word wish.
  81. But we dared to dream
    and to dream a lot
  82. because we decided that they
    were going to write a book.
  83. Not only did they write a book
    but they also bound it.
  84. That was by the end of 2010.
  85. We doubled the bet
    and wrote another book.
  86. And bound another book.
  87. That was a short time ago,
    by the end of last year.
  88. What I see week after week
    is how they are turning into
  89. different people, how they are
    being transformed.
  90. How words empower them with
    a dignity they hadn't heard of,
  91. they couldn't even imagine.
  92. They had no idea of such dignity
    and that could come from them.
  93. At the workshop, in that beloved hell
    we have, we all give.
  94. We open our hands and hearts and give
  95. what we have, what we can. All of us.
  96. All of us equally.
  97. In that way you feel that
    at least, in little proportion
  98. you are repairing that huge
    social fracture that makes that
  99. for many of them prison is
    their only destination.
  100. I remember a verse of a
    tremendous poet, a great poet,
  101. of the Unit 48 of our
    workshop, Nicolás Dorado:
  102. "I have to get an infinite thread
    to sew up this huge wound".
  103. Poetry does that. It sews up
    The wounds of exclusion.
  104. It opens doors.
    Poetry works as a mirror.
  105. It creates a mirror, which is the poem.
  106. They recognize themselves, they look at
    themselves in the poem and write
  107. from who they are and they are
    from what they write.
  108. In order to write, they need
    to appropriate the moment
  109. of writing which is a moment
    of extraordinary freedom.
  110. They have to get into their heads,
    search for that bit of freedom
  111. that can never be taken away
    when they write
  112. and that is also useful to
    realize that freedom is possible
  113. even inside the jail,
    and that the only bars we have
  114. in our wonderful space
    is the word bars and that all of us,
  115. in our inferno
    burn with happiness
  116. when we light
    the wick of the word.
  117. (Applause)
  118. I told you a lot about prison,
    a lot about my experience
  119. every week and how I enjoy it
    and transform myself with them.
  120. But you don´t know how much I'd like
    that you could feel, live,
  121. experience, even
    for a few seconds,
  122. what I enjoy every week
    and makes me who I am.
  123. (Applause)
  124. "The heart chews tears of time
  125. blind by that light
  126. hides the speed of existence
  127. were the images row
  128. it fights, it hangs on.
  129. The heart cracks under the sad gazes
  130. rides through storms that spread fire
  131. lifts chests lowered by shame,
  132. knows that it's not just reading and
    going on,
  133. it also wishes to see the infinite blue.
  134. The heart sits down to think about things,
  135. fights for avoiding commonplaces,
  136. Tries to love without hurting,
  137. Breathes the sun giving courage to itself,
  138. surrenders, travels to the reason.
  139. The heart fights among swamps,
  140. goes along the edge of the underworld,
  141. falls weakly and doesn't yield to
    the easy way
  142. while irregular steps of intoxication
  143. wake,
  144. wake the stillness".
  145. I'm Martín Bustamante,
  146. I am a prisoner
    in Unit 48 of San Martín,
  147. today is my day of temporary release.
  148. Poetry and literature
  149. changed my life.
  150. Thank you very much!
    (Applause)
  151. CD: Thank you!
  152. (Applause)