Sunglasses propped on her head, a white iron megaphone in hand, she begins the day by uttering: “Friendship is a sacred name, a sacred thing. It exists only between good people […] There can be no friendship where cruelty, disloyalty and injustice prevail.” Silvia Elena Machado reads aloud one of the posters an independent publisher stuck on the pink walls of the function room in Unit 31 of the Ezeiza women's prison, located in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.
Every Friday for the past five years, this room hosts a poetry workshop bringing together ten to fifteen inmates. Today, [December 7, 2007], is a day of celebration because it marks the second edition of the annual poetry festival entitled “I Didn’t Do It.”
A crowd of people follows Silvia Elena across the room. She continues reading the Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, by French writer étienne de La Boétie: “Between mean people […] there is no love, only fear. They are not friends, but accomplices.” The megaphone is passed from hand to hand, and after Silvia Elena, who has returned to the prison for the first time after having been freed ten months ago, it is the turn of Laura Ross, an inmate without a foreseen date of release: “Decide to stop being servile...”
Other convicts read with difficulty, timidly, encouraged by small pats on their backs from fellow prisoners. Applause resounds. Outside the sun is shining but the prison guards are not authorized to open the door that gives onto the small courtyard.
“我什么也没做”，是巴特·辛普森（巴特是一个10岁的小男孩，是电视动画片《辛普森一家》中的主角之一）最喜欢说的一句话。诗歌班的成员在两年前选择了这句话来命名她们的第一届诗歌节。她们给她们的第一本诗集也起了同样的名字。每周一次，诗人玛丽亚·麦德拉诺和她的女同伴克劳迪娅·普拉多带着大量书籍走进埃塞萨监狱。在这本诗集中，麦德拉诺写道：“参加诗歌班的大部分女性从未曾接触过这种文学形式。她们当中的一些人为了‘消磨时间’才决定报名参加；其他人则是为了看看热闹。但是，可以肯定的是，渐渐地，诗歌班变成了一个非常重要的空间……她们不愿意创作关于‘监狱’的诗（注：tumbera 在阿根廷指代监狱里的一切事物；la tumba（坟墓）指代监狱），因为对她们来说，这类用语是她们丧失自我个性过程的一部分：人一旦进了监狱，就不再是一个人了，而变成了一个‘包裹’（这也是监狱看守对犯人的称呼），犯人会有一个新名字，姓氏也会被改成‘监狱里的’。日常用语也会逐渐转变为监狱里的行话。”
“I Didn’t Do It” is Bart Simpson’s favorite expression [Bart is the 10-year-old boy who is one of The Simpsons main characters], which the workshop participants selected two years ago to baptize their first festival. They also gave this title to their first anthology of poems. In the anthology, María Medrano, the poet who, once a week, with fellow Claudia Prado, enters Ezeiza prison with a cartload of books, writes “Most women who participate in the workshop had never had any contact with this literary genre. Some of them decided to sign up to ‘kill time’, others, to see what it was all about. But what is certain is that, bit by bit, the workshop has become a vital space [...] They did not want to write ‘tumbera’ poetry [note: tumbera is the term used to designate what belongs to the prison world in Argentina ; la tumba (tomb) means jail], because for them, this language is part of the depersonalization process of which they are victims: when you enter prison, you stop being a person and become a ‘package’ (this is what the guards call the inmates), you receive a new first name, a new surname ‘tumbero’, and little by little, daily language becomes prison language.”
Here, poetry becomes a space of resistance, even if the penitentiary system considers it part of the “non-productive”, cultural workshops, meaning that they do not generate any revenues as opposed to the bread- or stuffed-animal-making workshops (prisoners who participate in these receive a small salary which they can spend themselves or send to their families).
Two years ago, when she read her texts at the first festival, Liz, a young Black woman with small braids cascading down her forehead, was pregnant. Today, she sees her son running among the male and female poets, journalists and visitors who have come in from the outside, while she awaits her turn to share her writings. She says: “I will read something I really like, and hope you will also like it… ‘I love him like the cancer that eats into my flesh…’”
A young, blond woman, whose pregnancy is already far along, asks a photographer who has come to attend the festival to take her picture: she wants to send it to her fiancé who is outside and cannot always visit her. She also wants to take advantage of the presence of a digital camera to see herself because there are no mirrors in the jail.
Through the windows up high we can see airplanes: the airport is only a few kilometers away, which is also the reason why this unit receives women accused of trafficking narcotics. They are “mules”, people who transit towards other countries, who were caught by customs officers with drugs in their luggage. A number of these women are foreigners. They did not understand the details of their sentence. It is only in prison that they learned Spanish.
In this little Babel, however, they have found a way to partake in the poetry workshop. Around one of the six meeting tables, we hear Polish, German, and Romanian words. One day, María Medrano came to the workshop with poems written in these women’s mother tongues. The prisoners of the workshop had the idea of bringing these texts to the festival, of reading them in their original version and translating them to share them with fellow inmates and visitors.
Carmen, a blond Romanian woman of 52 with a proud and soft voice, remembers that she had cried that day: “Then, I began to translate the text so that others could understand what it says. And today, I wanted to sing it, but I was so moved that I did not dare.” It is not the fear of speaking in public that discouraged her, but rather the memory of her mother, who had passed away in Romania the week before.
In February, Carmen will be extradited, which is the usual route for women accused of trafficking narcotics.
2011-03-25 14:45 编辑：kuaileyingyu