Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Welcome Back to National Poetry Month at Heretic, Rebel…First Up Marius Mason

It’s National Poetry Month Again!  If you have been visiting here for a while, you know what that means—it’s our fifth annual round up of daily doses of verse!  If you are new, here’s the scoop.  Every day all month I will feature poets and their poems.  I aim to be as broad and inclusive as possible to style, subject, period, gender, race, and neglected voices.  I don’t want just a parade of the usual dead white men, but a lot of them did write some damn fine poetry, so they have their place here to.  As always, selections follow my own tastes and whims.  Yours may be different.  But I am open to—eager for—suggestions, especially for contemporary writers.  I do not subscribe to dozen of little magazines or prowl the internet for poetry posts.  I often only stumble on new and unknown poets and I am sure I miss some great stuff.  Please feel free to turn me on to some—or be bold and submit your own.  I don’t and can’t promise to use everything.
Let’s start with some nitty-gritty political poetry from a nitty-gritty activist poet who is currently serving a long, 22 year prison sentence for arson fires that destroyed a laboratory at Michigan State University involved in genetically modified crop experiments by corporate behemoth Monsanto and to commercial logging equipment in Mesick, Michigan in 1999.  The activist/poet and health clinic volunteer admitted to the charges motivated by environmental concerns and participation in Earth Liberation Front. 
The actions were highly controversial even in the environmental movement and left.  Which may lead some to question why work by this person is included here.  Poems and poets have traditionally been the voice of the powerless, and have often been feared and persecuted because of that and because of the power of their words to inspire others.  It is up to the reader to decide if the work is both deserving as poetry and justifiable politically.  That can be difficult, challenging work.

Marie Mason before incarceration.

Marie Mason was born on January 22, 1962 and raised in the Detroit area.  At the time of the arson fires she was a well-known activist who worked as a gardener, musician, writer, Earth First! Organizer, and a volunteer for a free herbal-healthcare collective and with a local health clinic.  She was then 35 years old and married to Frank Ambrose and had two children.  Frank was also an activist and her partner in the arsons, as well as other actions, never charged, against luxury homes under construction in sensitive forest land and property belonging to a mink farmer.
Ambrose was arrested in 2008 and agreed to become a government informant resulting in Mason’s arrest and trial in 2009.  She received the maximum 20 year sentence plus two more added by the trial judge, an enhanced terrorism provision.  It is by far the longest sentence ever handed down for environmental sabotage during the so-called Green Scare and was especially unusual in that care was taken that know humans would be harmed during the fires. 
Mason is currently serving time in the high security Administration Unit at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas along with the most violent, incorrigible, and mentally ill female inmates in the Federal system.  Held in cramped condition including hours of individual confinement with limited exercise and harsh restrictions on visitors and most customary prison entertainment, educational, or rehabilitation activates.  Unlike other inmates in the unit Mason has no history of violating prison rules or violence.  Prisoners there are a high security population.  Mason, the only political prisoner has received no such plan and has no idea how to get out of the restrictive facility.

Marius Mason in Prison last December.

In 2014 Mason came out as transgender and now wishes to be known as Marius Mason.  His supporters have altered their website, Support Marius , to reflect this reality while he pursues a legal name change.  Meanwhile letters can be sent to him in prison, but need to be addressed to Marie on the envelope.
Despite the difficulties of his confinement, Marius continues to write and his poetry can be found on his web page and as well as on a Facebook group.  He displays a range of passionate concerns for justice in the world.
This fine poem took my breath away when I encountered it on Facebook earlier this month.  The Facebook page also contains Marius’s paintings.
Why You Can’t Bomb Your Way to Peace
A steel-walled room, enclosed and full
Of children playing, grandmothers and the wash and
angry young men with an ax to grind.
Oh yes, and a single shooter.
The loaded pistol raised,
What moral authority will pull the trigger?
And if it does, if judgment issues vengeance, eschews logic,
Directs the bullet outward
To the metal wall in a spirited trajectory
Behind their heads, they turn to look,
What then?
How can one possibly predict or calculate the collateral damage done
As that shot explodes in lethal fragments,
Around the room,
Seeking something soft.
“The rain falls equally upon the guilty and the innocent”, we have been told
A war like this, like weather flows
A flood that brooks no peace

—Marius Mason

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