By Chidi Ezeobi
Published by Moonstone Press
Book Review by Kavita Khajuria
“My ten fingers torment me
Because of what they represent”
‘Remind the World’ is a chapbook – containing various memories of prison life – with reflections, pleas, questions and contemplations. Untold costs of incarceration include penance and pain – from isolation, lack of free will, nostalgia, and yearning for the “ancestral motherland.” Other themes include family separation, the potential for abandonment, and the toll of stigma. Poems speak to the unsparing universality of time and“meaninglessness,” heavy with emotional weight. The reader hears of unrelenting conditions of confinement, including racial and financial disparities and the dilemmas of decision-making. Personas for survival speak to the complexities of prison life. One also hears of paradox – of hope and despair behind bars – and reasons to challenge faith. The impact of holidays and phone calls may give the reader room for pause – to consider activities often taken for granted by the outside world – an often underestimated impact on incarcerated individuals. Despite all this, one also hears dreams and memories, hope and eagerness, and gratitude and insight – including resolve and relief at the prospect of new beginnings.
With incarceration rates having exploded over the past 4 decades, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with over 2.3 million behind bars – and contains some of the most ill members of society. Incarceration can be stressful and dehumanizing, and those with mental illnesses are especially vulnerable. At least 15% of inmates have a serious mental illness in the United States – this population exceeds those treated in the community and in psychiatric hospitals. Poetry from prisons offer a brief glimpse into the bottomless pit of human suffering for many – often unknown to the outer world.