Inscape    number 25 in the 2River Chapbook Series January 2019

A note concerning the title Inscape

Inscape, a concept central to the aesthetics of the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, is the unified complex of characteristics that makes an object unique. It is an object’s defining core or essence that distinguishes it from all other things.

Poetry by prisoners, some incarcerated for many years, possibly cuts closer to that essence and possibly speaks from closer to the heart or gut of immediate matters. But these confined poets have plenty of patience for the ordinary, the everyday, even the frivolous and the humorous. Though a fair number of these poems are about the prison experience, others give voice to universal themes familiar to all of us.

The term inscape, then, is more descriptive of what the writing of poetry offers to those who write it than of what they write. Their writing is a form of escape from the daily boredom, humiliations and resentments of prison life. But it is not a movement to the outside, though for all these incarcerated poets, such an outward flight would be a blessing. Rather, Inscape is an escape achieved while still inside, physically confined, by turning inward toward what can never be confined, toward personal memory, thought, consciousness and feeling, perhaps above all and containing all, toward the singular and extraordinarily creative imaginations of poets who happen to be prisoners.

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