Visiting the Blues: 2021 Prison Writing Awards Anthology

Visiting the Blues book cover

Visiting the Blues, the 2021 Prison Writing Awards Anthology, is an incredible collection of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama written during one of the toughest moments in our over-incarcerated nation’s history. Suffering from extreme isolation, the works in this book highlight the resilience and humanity of the people society routinely neglects. Included in this book are original groundbreaking illustrations by students at Parsons School of Design. This year, the anthology is being distributed to prisons in print and electronically through a partnership with Brooklyn Public Library.


Praise for Visiting the Blues

“In this remarkable collection, we hear the voices of those society has tried to silence. But they are roaring back here, showing us the depth of their compassion, their grief, their regret, their intelligence, and especially their humanity. Let their words bring us closer to them and the realization of all that we lose in trying to keep them hidden away.”
author of Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration

“Captivity breeds creativity. In a contemporary moment where the concept of freedom is longed for by so many, incarcerated writers are a soothing balm, an encouraging sage, an inhale of the power of imagination, hope, and possibility. The winners of the 2021 PEN Prison Writing Awards are exceptional in skill and storytelling. They are 21st century iterations of the American slave narrative. Indeed, these writers are evidence that incarcerated writers are the epitome of freedom dreaming. They are contemporary narrators of the American dream deferred. This scarlet letter genre are the reflectors of all that is wrong with the ingenuity of modern-day slavery, and all that is available to the human concept of freedom.”
author of Bird Uncaged, An Abolitionist’s Freedom Song

“After reading the 2021 PEN Prison Writing Awards Anthology I am left with a litany of visual language that delves into every corridor of the human experience guided by a moral compass to search for the unknown truth. Make no mistake, this is a conglomeration of creative inquiry rearranged from pieces of what this world gives us to reflect upon, an inquiry that understands there is no limitation with the pen and the pad. In this anthology, what we receive is a report from the inside, but these poems, prose and plays undeniably confirm the inside cannot contain the imagination.”
author of #289-128: Poems