KZSM — Everyone finds their voice, your true community radio station, proudly presents “The Personhood Project,” a new broadcast featuring interviews with established poets and discussions of works by incarcerated writers. “The Personhood Project” airs at 4 pm on the last Sunday of every month.

The broadcast forms part of a larger project, “Rough Draft,” formerly named “Down South Word of Mouth.”

Through Hays, Travis, and Tarrant County jails, “Rough Draft” offers classes in literacy and creative writing, soon to be expanded to include art. Aaron Hand, a student in Texas State’s MFA creative writing program, has partnered with Brooke Pillifant, president and founder of “Rough Draft,” to create The Personhood Project.

For people confined in jail, writing poetry is much more than an academic exercise. As Hand explains it, “writing things down is helpful for processing them. A lot of people don’t have the space to process what they’ve been through, so to give them time to write about and think about things is a way to get past them.” Writing allows people to process emotions rather than bottling them up and exploding into risky behavior.

The Personhood Project is designed to provide incarcerated writers with feedback on their work from established poets. This response acknowledges the writers and makes them part of a larger poetry community. “’Incarcerated,’” Pillifant points out, “becomes a ‘master status’ that takes over everything else. The person is classified first and foremost ‘an inmate’ or ‘an ex-con,’ and people outside the system see them as less than or not human.” Having their work valued and acknowledged “brings personhood back to incarcerated writers” and helps them accept their jail time as “part of their story but not as the overarching piece that defines them as a human.”

Tonight’s broadcast will feature poet and Texas State Creative Writing Professor Roger Jones. As guest poet, Jones will talk about his own poetic vision of him and will read and discuss poems written by inmates in response to poems of his. The interviews and discussions will eventually be made available to the incarcerated writers to see their work acknowledged and to share with their families and friends.

Made possible in part by a grant from the San Marcos Arts Commission, “The Personhood Project” will “let people see the humanity in these people who might have just made a mistake and ended up somewhere that anyone could end up if their life took that direction.”

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