The Power of Words – Summer Colley
When they hear
This is how
Know. – Nayyirah Waheed
The evening commenced with Liz Mariani sharing this simple yet robust poem with the incarcerated women at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF). Mariani, a poet and spoken word artist, is passionate about her belief in and practice of the idea that words are medicine and poetry can be
“a way for you to recognize your own path.”
Mariani encouraged honesty through vulnerability by sharing how poetry aided her in overcoming loss and sexual violence. Mariani’s presentation focused on using poetry to work on one’s self-worth, confidence and the feeling of empowerment and fulfillment that comes from creative exploration. When she asked the participants to draw on and share inspiration from their own experiences, the room erupted with chatter. “Everything was inspiring!” exclaimed one of the participants.
Silence settled over the group as Mariani provided space for the incarcerated women to express themselves and create medicine of their own by completing a poetry worksheet. Whether or not the women at CRCF actually finished writing a poem seemed irrelevant. What she was attempting to do was give them a tool for processing life’s turbulence and space to express themselves creatively behind closed walls.
At the end of each Enrichment Night, we handed out a short survey. At the bottom of the survey where we ask for further comments, the women replied:
“I was encouraged to live my dream.”
“This was a very relaxing class, much appreciated.”
“Thank you for being so raw.”
“I love poetry”
Mariani’s inspiring work can be found in publications such as The Brooklyner Magazine, The Buffalo News, and ArtVoice, and is available for purchase online at River Talk Art Shop.
Enrichment Night is a monthly program held at the women’s Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) that exposes women in prison to positive female role models and a myriad of career paths. Presenters often share their personal journeys to careers, highlighting techniques they used to overcome challenges along the way. It’s a motivational evening to inspire and encourage the women “inside” to consider varied career paths and to grow in appreciation for the transformative value of work.