Arizona Prison Writing Project

In 1970, poet and former University of Arizona professor Richard Shelton received a letter from a serial killer asking for feedback on poetry, which inspired him to teach a writer's workshops in the Arizona State Prison System. Since then, with support from the Poetry Center, the program has thrived, with many of Shelton's students going on to publish the works they created while incarcerated, including Ken Lamberton and Jimmy Santiago Baca. Shelton himself wrote a memoir, Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer, detailing his experiences. He also edits Walking Rain Review, which features the work of current and former inmates.  The project is currently funded with generous support from the Lannan Foundation. Copies of Walking Rain Review are available free of charge in the Poetry Center's Jeremy Ingalls Gallery.  

The Arizona Prison Writing Project has been featured on a variety of news programs and outlets, and if you'd like to learn more, some of those features are linked below.

PBS NewsHour: Poetry Program Gives Prisoners Unexpected Voice

Huffington Post: The Prisoners' Professor

Arizona Public Media: The Prisoners' Poet

Arizona Public Media: Writing About Prison

Arizona Public Media: Man Finds Purpose in Writing After Prison

University of Arizona Press: Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer

Orion Magazine: How Long Has It Been Since You Smelled a Flower?