I am Reginald Sinclair Lewis, and this piece is called “Behind the Iron Curtain.”
My long, arduous journey to becoming a widely published award-winning poet, essayist, playwright began in the dark dungeons of Pennsylvania death row where I taught myself to write with the pretty eloquence of [inaudible], the Psalms of David, with the evangelical flare of James Baldwin and Martin Luther King’s famous letter from a Birmingham jail.
PEN America awarded me first [inaudible] for poetry, and then in 1988, writing awards for prisoners. I beat over 800 of the most prolific in-prison poets. My earliest pen pals were poets Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonya Sanchez, and remember Thelma from Good Times? Yup! I love corresponding with college students, activists, the clergy supporters of the arts, prominent scholars like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Dr. Cornell West, who mentioned my work on C-SPAN book TV, and even one who once worked for a president of the United States. Yet post-9/11, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and others, pretextual reasons and cruel devices, to severely illegally restrict my communications with the general public.
I am subjected to microscopic scrutiny, relentless surveillance, sequestration, isolation, because I speak truth to power, a non-conformance who shatters pervasive, negative stereotypes of the wretched prisoner or a subordinate member of a inferior class. Haven’t we learned anything at all from Edward Snowden, that the dark prophecies of the powerful dystopian novels, 1984 by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, warned us about the future in shooting technology, totalitarian rule, and the thought police?
I am Reginald Sinclair Lewis.