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Brixton Prison Project


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Brixton Prison
Panic! welcomes you to read Time: Brixton Prison Poetry (PDF)

A book of prisoner poetry and photography of HMS Brixton Prison completed in 2002.




Background Documents


Announcement of Winner -
14 July 2001, Bastille Day
Panic! would like to take the opportunity on Bastille Day to announce the winners of the Brixton Prison Poetry Competition. Batille Day is a holiday in France and around the world: it commemorates the destruction of the notorious French Prison, The Bastille. At the height of the revolutionary explosion of 1789, poor French people, usual residents of the prison, physically dismantled and destroyed the prison. The event is a symbol of freedom and the will to liberation by those forced into incarceration by an unjust power. These themes are shared implicitly and explicitly in all the contributions to the competition and project, poems incessantly speak of the heavy weight of time, the profound boredom and loneliness of incarceration, and the desire to be free. Each is a testament to the freedom which lies at the tenuous basis of human life, of a will to live unchained, unsupervised - but a will born in the painful and frustrating acknowledgement of one's incarceration and powerlessness. We cannot forget the example of the Bastille which serves to remind us that our freedom cannot be taken away simply because we are poor or different, that a system of power, like the French Monarchy, which penalises poverty and legitimises the priviledge and power of a wealthy elite against the majority, may make no claim to authentic justice, truth or right. It contains the seeds of its own destruction.


Winners

First Prize -- 100

M.J.- 'If Time had a color'

If Time had a color
What hue would it show?
Will it be light blue
Like the color of the sea?
We are told that Days ebb and flow,
Years are washed away.
"The sands of time are running out".
And Months sail by.
Maybe time would be green.
To match the color of grass.
Or sparkle like icicles,
Upon an old man's hair.
Time might be black,
Like a raven's wing,
Because Time flies,
But never fast enough.

Second Prize -- 50

Eddie E.- 'Nothing to do, nothing at all'

Nothing to do, nothing at all
You sit and stare at that cell wall.
To survive this place takes an iron will
Life ebbs away but yet stands still:
Your life is on hold, you wish it away
Till the time comes, your release day.
You took for granted so many things
It's funny, now, what your mind brings -
To release the anguish, to ease the pain -
A simple thing like a walk in the rain
To see clear skies and the beautiful stars
Without the hindrance of these prison bars:
Better pictures these, through a lying eye
Of grass, of trees, of wonderful sky -
They take away that purple haze
That clouds your mind through drawn-out days ...
Baut it's all false, it's just not true,
Reality steps in, you're left with just you.
You're back in your cell, you stare at the wall
With nothing to do, nothing at all.

Third Prize -- 25

Elroy P. - 'Behind the Charade'

Behind the charade of our brave face
The wild and free, caged in this place
Our only comfort is when the day is gone
Time is passing, that keeps us strong

Time is the answer to our prayers
The ultimate prize for the stayers
But for those of us at the beginning
Punishment looms heavy for our sinning

So you might feel you're on the brink
But you're not alone so stop and think
Brothers in arms together we'll pull through
Every day someone goes home, soon it will be you.

An Honorable Mention goes to Magee Mansour - 'Hard Times'



We would like to thank all the contributors to the contest, all of whom
will be included in the 'Time' project, which will encompass a print book, an 
e-book, and a film of the prison poets reading their poems -  

We would also like to thank Governor Stephen Twinn, Writer-in-Residence Hugh
Stoddart, Activities Cooordinator Jo Parkinson, and Librarian Anna Robinson.




Panic!  has initiated the Brixton Prison Poetry Project and 
Competition as a means to acknowledge the rest of the
voices of the residents of Brixton, South London.  

All poetry will be included in a print book and Acrobat 
e-book, and will be documented in a film of prisoners 
reading their poems, possibly in a live event.

The theme of the project is "Time" and it is hoped that this 
project will encourage these experts on the topic to disclose 
some insight on temporality and incarceration.

The Brixton Prison Poetry Project has been approved by the 
Governor of Brixton Prison Stephen Twinn and will occur with 
the co-operation of Hugh Stoddart, Writer in Residence of 
the Brixton Prison and the Brixton Prison library.  

The deadline for submission for the contest is May 1 (subject to 
extension).  Winners will be announced on July 14th, Bastille Day.

Only prisoners are eligible for this contest.

First prize is 100, second prize 50, third prize 25. 


Update - 15 June 2001 

At the time of the deadline, eleven poets, currently resident in the
Brixton Prison, contributed a total of nineteen poems for the Panic! 
Brixton Prison Poetry Competition and Project.

The winners will be announced on 14 July on the internet & 21 July at 
TRANSFIGURATION: Brixton Poetry Gathering and Art Exhibition on 21 July 
2001, 8pm - 3am at the Brixton Art Gallery at 35 Brixton Station Road 
(next to the Brixton Recreation Centre, near Brixton Tube).

Filming of the Prison Poets is projected to take place in September.

Panic! would like to thank Hugh Stoddart, Writer-in-Residence at the
Brixton Prison, for his enthusiastic cooperation with Panic!.


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