How poetry helped a prisoner survive 18 years in solitary confinement: ‘I've been through enough pain to make a sane man just scream’

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Writing can serve as an escape, while in prison. Photo by Shutterstock.

Ian Manuel spent 18 years in solitary confinement in a Florida jail, starting from the age of 15.  In order to survive, he relied upon his vivid imagination, an experience he describes as akin to diving under water to a place where his imagination dwelt. There, he would play out his dreams: becoming a superstar, a rapper, or a hero, someone powerful in a place he was powerless. While in solitary, Manuel constantly turned to poetry, learning, reciting, and rewriting Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” 

KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian talks with Manuel about his experience in solitary and the solace he gained from poetry.  

Credits

Guest:

Producer:

Andrea Brody