Bard, Bound 

Poet and political prisoner Marilyn Buck dreams beyond the walls of her cell.

Poetry and incarceration make strange cellfellows, but the new CD Wild Poppies: A Poetry Jam Across Prison Walls shows that they are sometimes very natural partners. The 46-track tribute disc features a wide range of poets -- including Amiri Baraka, devorah major, Genny Lim, Aya De León, David Meltzer, and Piri Thomas -- reading work written by and for political prisoner Marilyn Buck. The New College of SF grad student and 2001 PEN Prison Writing Program poetry prizewinner is serving an eighty-year sentence in Dublin, California, as a result of her involvement with the Black Liberation Movement. She reads her own "Dream Fragments," recorded, as all of her tracks were, over a crackly prison phone line, and it speaks perhaps most eloquently of what it's like to be a poet in prison, a navigator of dreams in a place where reality is a nightmare: The national security state keeps files on the imagination/Dreams go underground, seek subterranean pass/Water in these iron-streaked cells.

"Every time I talk to her on the phone," says Buck's friend and former comrade-behind-bars Donna Willmott, "a voice comes on every few minutes to say, 'This call is from a federal prison,' as if you're going to forget." This was only one of many technical difficulties involved in putting this anthology together, from recording in a tin-roofed room during a rainstorm to equipment problems at KPFA. But not a single poet, from NY to Puerto Rico, turned them down for the CD, Willmott says. "I know from being inside that poetry can really be a lifeline when you are subject to that kind of isolation from the States. But to have your words received with such appreciation and love by such a wide range of poets and artists is really very strengthening."

There's a CD release party this Sunday evening at La Peña from 5 to 7:30 p.m., featuring many of the poets from the CD. Admission is on a sliding scale from $5 to $15 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Call La Peña at 510-849-2568 or visit for further details.


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