Poetry from Guantanamo


 

By Yochi J. Dreazen

Inmates at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, used pebbles to scratch messages into the foam cups they got with their meals. When the guards weren’t looking, they passed the cups from cell to cell. It was a crude but effective way of communicating.

The prisoners weren’t passing along escape plans or information about future terrorist attacks. They were sending one another poems.

For years, the U.S. military refused to declassify the poems, arguing that inmates could use the works to pass coded messages to other militants outside. But the military relaxed the ban recently and cleared 22 poems by 17 prisoners for public release.

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.

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