Illustration by Ariandy Luna

This Empty Cage

This section of The Exchange features poems from currently or formerly incarcerated writers

  1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
  6. The Exchange: Her.
  7. The Exchange: Lint
  8. The Exchange: Reality Check
  9. The Exchange: Caution
  10. The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
  11. The Exchange: The Path
  12. The Exchange: sTREEtS
  13. The Exchange: Butter
  14. The Exchange: The Bright Side
  15. The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
  16. This Empty Cage
  17. Paper Machete
  18. The Exchange: Marketplace

“There is something in this empty cage that never gets released,” says Iranian writer Garous Abdolmalekian in his poem Long Exposure. The United States has the highest prison population and incarceration rate per capita in the world. These systems perpetuate harm both during active sentences and even after release. Despite this, writers and creatives have found ways to build community, whether compiling their works in hopes that their stories can eventually be told, or continuing their writings later in life. 

After creating The Exchange, The Weekly began receiving letters from incarcerated poets in response to our prompts. When looking at mass incarceration from afar, it seems like such a large issue to tackle. But publishing the work of incarcerated poets’ can bring freedom to their voices, regardless of where they are physically. 

This section of The Exchange features the writings of currently or formerly incarcerated writers.

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Paper Machete

This section of The Exchange features black-out poems created by current and graduated high school students