Watch: Poet and Editor Tara Betts leads two-day series on “Prison, Poetry, and the Pandemic: Speculating Joy and Futures”

The Human Rights Lab had the privilege of hosting poet and editor Tara Betts for a two-part event series last week. “Prison, Poetry, and the Pandemic: Speculating Joy and Futures” began with Dr. Betts reading her own poetry alongside powerful work by some of her incarcerated students at Stateville Prison, where she teaches with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project. In conversation with Lab Director Alice Kim, Dr. Betts discussed imagination and playfulness in poetry—including why it’s so crucial to emphasize joy, even in times of difficulty and crisis. 

The following evening, Dr. Betts led a virtual workshop that asked participants to imagine the freedom they want to see in the world. After close readings of work by Pablo Neruda and Danez Smith, workshop participants tried their hands at a pair of imaginitive writing activities. 

Below, check out examples of some great participant drafts and watch recordings of both events!

Dubitable by MK Sturdevant (@mksturdevant)

Night Thermoses by Stephanie Weiner (Revolutionary Lemonade Stand)

Two Poems by Linda Park (Definitely Not Okay)