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Interfaith Inspiration

Free Verse: 3 Poets on How Words Can Heal

Jun 15, 2022

(Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels)
Joseph Jackson

Joseph Jackson

Joseph Jackson is Director of Leadership Development at Maine Inside Out, an organization that uses original theater to build community, develop youth leadership, and create dialogue both inside and outside of Long Creek Youth Development Center, Maine’s juvenile correction facility. He is also Executive Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and Campaign Advisor of Maine Youth Justice. In 1995, Mr. Jackson was convicted of manslaughter, and served 19 years. During that period, he founded the Maine prison chapter of the NAACP, and earned associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, both summa cum laude, from the University of Maine at Augusta. When Mr. Jackson enrolled in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing, he was the first prisoner in the state to be selected for a graduate program. In 2015, he earned a Master’s Degree from University of Southern Maine. A published poet, Joseph Jackson was on the Advisory Board of Freedom & Captivity, a humanities project that examines the impact of incarceration and offers public opportunities to imagine alternatives. In a 2018 article for The Guardian, Mr. Jackson wrote: “I do this work because years of liberal studies and distance allowed me to make sense of the unfathomable world I experienced. It is a world in which abuse is relentless. It defies comprehension.”  

Maya Williams

Maya Williams

Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a religious Black Mixed Race suicide survivor and the seventh poet laureate of Portland, Maine. Maya was a Better Together Coach as an undergraduate student at East Carolina University, is a recipient of the Interfaith America Alumni Interfaith Leadership Fund and is an Interfaith Innovation Fellow along with creative partner Mia S. Willis (they/them). Mia and Maya co-host the video essay series Dying/Laughing, a live action and animation discussion series dedicated to speaking candidly about suicidality and confronting its representations in entertainment media. You can find Maya as one of three artists of color representing Maine in The Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America series and more of their published work on Eir debut poetry collection, “Judas & Suicide,” is available for pre-order via Game Over Books. Maya encourages people to support Maine Inside Out and Rise & Shine Youth Retreat.

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