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USA: inmates and students brought together by poetry

Michigan State University students make a weekly visit to the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia to learn, write and perform poetry with prisoners.

Diarra Bryant shot and killed a man inside a Detroit apartment when he was 17. It was 1996. He and his accomplices forced the dead man’s brother to sign over the title of his car, according to court records. They were caught attempting to get their hostage to take money out of his bank. Sentenced to life in prison, Bryant has been incarcerated for the two decades.

On a Tuesday in December, Bryant was on a stage inside Ionia’s Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility alongside a dozen other incarcerated men, performing in a slam poetry contest that was also the culmination of an arts and humanities class at Michigan State University.

“Damn you,” his poem began. “I see through it like the brightest morning sun that shines through your eyelids, interrupting your sweet dreams and stirring your soul.”

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