Marilyn began her antiracist activism as a teenager in Texas. As a college student, she organized against the war in Vietnam and in solidarity with the Black liberation movement. “After less than a decade as a political activist,” she writes,“I went to prison, convicted of procuring firearms for the Black Liberation Army. I faced 10 years in prison — a very long time for a young woman."
After serving four years, Marilyn was granted a furlough from prison and did not return. She spent the next eight years in clandestinity. Marilyn was recaptured in 1985. In addition to charges related to Assata Shakur’s escape, she was convicted of conspiracy to protest government policies (the invasion of Grenada and military intervention in Central America) through the use of violence against government property. Her total sentence was 80 years.
“The trials, those years of intense repression and US government denunciations of my humanity had beat me up rather badly. Whatever my voice had been, it was left frayed. I could scarcely speak.” Instead, Marilyn wrote. “For prisoners, writing is a life raft to save one from drowning in a prison swamp. I could not write a diary or a journal; I was a political prisoner. Everything I had was subject to investigation, invasion and confiscation. I was a censored person. In defiance, I turned to poetry, an art of speaking sparely, but flagrantly.”
She also confronted the artistic repression of rigid political thought. “The artist, as creator, creates the concept and framework for a different cultural paradigm. Political speeches, leaflets and pamphlets that exhort and condemn the old, oppressive order rarely do that. Without the imagination there is little daring to confront the old.”
Marilyn has been awarded three prizes by the PEN Prison Writing Program, including first prize for poetry in 2001. Her poems can be found in many collections and in her chapbook, Rescue the Word. Her poems from this CD can be found on the poems page.
At FCI Dublin (the Federal Correctional Institute for women in Dublin, California), where Marilyn has been imprisoned since 1994, she had the opportunity to work with performance artist Karina Epperly. She also participated in a series of poetry workshops led, behind prison walls, by June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. What Marilyn loved most about the poetry workshops inside was being part of a community of poets — the spoken aloud, in-your-faceness of poetry in voices that layered, that shared, that contradicted, that inspired each other.
This collection was created in that same spirit. It is proof that revolutionary imagination can’t be stifled, no matter how many prisons or patriot acts we face. A poet calls out, and dozens of voices rush to answer.
Marilyn is one of more than 100 political prisoners in this country. As you listen to her poems and those of the other extraordinary poets here, let the ideals, the vision, the sacrifice of those political prisoners reverbate in your ears and your heart.
Marilyn's greetings to CD listeners, phoned in to the CD release parties, with photos of Marilyn, other contributors and political prisoners (QuickTime files for dialup or broadband).
For more information about Marilyn, visit www.marilynbuck.com