Guantanamo Prison Poets to be Published

By Carmen Comment

The Wall Street Journal‘s Yochi Dreazen reports on a new development
out of Guantanamo Bay – the impending publication of an 84-page anthology titled POEMS FROM GUANTANAMO: THE DETAINEES SPEAK will be published in August by the University of Iowa Press, giving readers an unusual glimpse into the emotional lives of the largely nameless and faceless prisoners there.

For years, the US government had refused to declassify poems written by Gitmo prisoners (their explanation: “Poetry…presents a special risk, and DOD standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language”) but now they have relaxed restrictions to allow publication of 22 poems by 17 detainees. Compiling the poems (which were translated from Arabic) was Marc Falkoff, a defense lawyer with a PhD in English literature who stumbled onto the poetry after receiving several from his clients.

One detainee, Martin Mubanga, a British citizen who was released from Guantanamo Bay in 2005, says writing the poetry was a helpful release. “You had all of this anger and frustration that would build up, and poetry was a way of getting it out of you,” says Mr. Mubanga, who had been accused of plotting attacks on Jewish targets in New York. “It was a way of staying sane.”