Make a Poem Cry

Trade Paper – $19.95

ISBN 978-1-882688-58-6
Publication Date
April 2020
Page Count
80 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Make a Poem Cry

Creative Writing from California’s Lancaster Prison
Edited by Kenneth E. Hartman and Luis J. Rodríguez

Make a Poem Cry is an anthology of poems from one of California’s high-security prisons brought to us through the creative writing classes of Luis J. Rodríguez, sponsored by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Rodríguez, who is Tia Chucha Press’s founding editor, and formerly incarcerated writer Kenneth E. Hartman have selected work penned from 2016 to 2018. These are poems, essays, stories, and more mined from the depths of familial, racial, and economic violence. They are imaginings for how to address trouble and crime without punishment, dehumanization, and violence in return. Here’s restorative/transformative justice in action. Here’s redemption in the flesh. Here are voices and viewpoints needed for a just and equitable world for all.
Funded by the Arts for Justice Fund, the project is part of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s “Trauma to Transformation Program.”

About the Author

KENNETH E. HARTMAN was convicted of murder at nineteen and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. After he had served thirty-eight years, former California governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. commuted his sentence, and Hartman was paroled in 2017. He’s presently a freelance writer who is also working as a development coordinator and prison programs specialist for a Los Angeles–area nonprofit. His 2009 memoir, Mother California: A Story of Redemption behind Bars, won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award. Hartman edited Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough, a collection of prisoner writings about life sentences without the possibility of parole, which won a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award. His work has appeared in the New York Times and Harper’s.
LUIS J. RODRÍGUEZ was the poet laureate of Los Angeles from 2014 to 2016. He has taught creative writing as well as conducted poetry readings, lectures, and healing circles in prisons, juvenile lockups, and jails throughout the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. He is the founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and cofounder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. Rodríguez is the author of fifteen books of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, including the best-selling memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca; Gang Days in L.A.



“There are few places left where putting pen to paper remains the dominant mode of formal communication, but so it is inside the jails and prisons of this country. Whether it’s sad letters to family members, or desperate pleas to heedless courts and government functionaries, or long, passionate missives to lovers on the other side of the fences, the average man or woman in prison talks to the rest of the world through words written on paper.” —Kenneth E. Hartman, from the preface