Lemon Creek Exchange Participant Wins Woosh K Poetry Slam at UAS
By Sol Neely, Assistant Professor of English and Philosophy
For the first time ever, the monthly Woosh Kinaadeiyí Poetry Slam in Juneau was held on the University of Alaska Southeast Auke Lake campus as part of the Sound and Motion Spring Arts Series. Eminent poet-MC’s were UAS Art student Kate Laster, Class of ’13 and alumni Jacque Boucher, Class of ’12 and Outstanding Graduate in Humanities.
The slam winner was Nathan Block, a talented Iraq war veteran recently paroled from Lemon Creek Correctional Center (LCCC) who participated in the Fall 2012 “UAS-LCCC Education Exchange Project,” where he first met many of the student organizers of the monthly poetry slam.
The “UAS-LCCC Education Exchange Project” program brought UAS students inside the prison for an “integrated” classroom experience. The opportunity to bring university students inside the prison for collaborative study with inmates was co-organized by Dr. Sol Neely and Mr. Paul McCarthy (education coordinator at LCCC) as a component to Prof. Neely’s ENGL 418 course—“Fugitive Thought: Philosophy and Literature Born of Prison”—which studied culturally significant literature and philosophy born of the prison as a privileged perspective from which to open meditations on questions of justice, hope, redemption, and ethical responsibility. Photo by Daniel Kantak
Reaching across the profound social barriers that separate the prison and the university, students inside and outside prison learned from each other, working to address and change misconceptions about education, incarceration, and power. During the final week of the education exchange, students shared their own poetry and original creative works, which brought the program to an especially intense and emotional conclusion.
When learning of Nathan’s release from LCCC during the winter break, UAS students who met Nathan through the “UAS-LCCC Education Exchange Project” encouraged him to attend the poetry slam. With heartening hospitality, UAS students have made a campus community for Nathan, who is enrolling in summer classes at UAS and preparing to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy.
Meanwhile, Prof. Neely and Mr. McCarthy are resuming literary and philosophical studies inside LCCC, working to organize with UAS students another “integrated” three-week creative writing workshop in April.