In Fall 2016, I team-taught a course with my colleague Patrick Alexander at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, familiarly known as Parchman Farm. Through the Prison to College Pipeline Program currently being developed at the University of Mississippi, Patrick and I met with a group of students in the pre-release program every Wednesday afternoon. With him, they read African American narratives of slavery, incarceration, and the struggle for freedom. With me, they worked on their own creative writing, both poetry and prose.

I’ve never taught a class I cared about more. These Wednesday afternoons combated the “soul death” of incarceration with the soul depth of beauty and truth and imagination. I learned so many things from our students. And I am proud to present some of what they wrote in this special portfolio for About Place. For many of the men, this is their first publication.

Bertoldt Brecht once wrote:

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

What follows is some of the singing.

—Ann Fisher-Wirth