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Warrior Poets Project

Introducing Rich Pheng

I am working on a project called “Warrior Poets,” which features artists in a forum meant for healing wounded souls. This project will commence in the domain of my blog, but hopefully, other artist will be able to create their own websites as they get started. There are many talented individuals in prison who not only deserve recognition for their work, but who, I believe, can make a difference by offering what they create for others to ponder. Unfortunately, there are many foolish distractions in prison and only a few will actually grasp hold of the chance to shine, but shine they will.

I am starting this project from within prison, but I hope to gain members from the outside as well. It is important for all of us to gain the interest of those outside, to be heard, to entertain, and to collaborate. I see a doorway of many opportunities opening wide as this project grows, such as helping at-risk youth, artists becoming teachers of the craft and healing, so that we can get out of prison and live productive lives in a society we have been separated from for too long. I hope to eventually turn Warrior Poets into a non-profit organization and publish anthologies with profits going to charitable organizations, as well as creating a start-up for the participating poets who are paroling.

Our first warrior poet is Rich Pheng, who has been serving life sentence since the age of fifteen years old. He is currently working on a degree in business from Coastline Community College. Hopefully, his own personal blog will be set up soon after this introduction, and you will be able to read more of his writing in the future.

Forced to Fit In
by Rich Pheng, 2017

Growing up as a third-world descendant

Rich Pheng

America forced me to start pretending
They forced me to try and fit in
So I studied all that was in my vision
from thugs, dope-dealers, and promiscuous women
to hustlers, stick-up kids, and players play pimpin’
So many promises in this land of differences
but what was different was different incomes
The higher class got fancy with their children
My family ate whatever welfare could get us
but food stamps couldn’t provide clothes for my baby sister
so momma gave her my clothes that would fit her
“FUCK THAT!” my brother said, so I followed because he was bigger
We bought a Dillinger and started pulling stick-ups
So fun like a game, we took turns pulling the trigger
The easiest money ever made and momma didn’t hit us
We got smart and went to school for appearance
and when the bell rang we played as killers
A life of crime promoted through movies and history
We wondered at times, “Why go against it?”
Richard Nixon lied and he president
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, modern America is what you’re picturing
a thug, a dope-dealer, and a promiscuous woman again
The same old American description
I loved every step across that line to sinning
I loved every hit of that natural addiction
I loved every freak chick down with Monica Lewinski
When my pops and big bro died, I wished that I was right there with them
but now I see my younger siblings having children
I’m trying to make up for all my sinning and hoping God forgives me
America the united yet still divided due to ignorance
Innocents being killed and witnesses refuse to be a witness
Murder is murder no matter who is the victim
A thug, a cop, and even a kid can be a killer
I was fifteen when I was given my life sentence
I wasn’t innocent so that cruelty fitted me
But take care to remember that my sin is not my present
and before you judge me take a long look inside my broken mirror
feel my pain, love my life, and see the fire in my spirit
I grew up as a third world descendant
in American where they forced me to fit in

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Pain Vs. Sorrow

Sean Michael, August 2017

Pain hurts
sorrow is sweet
Pain is an instrument of confusion
While sorrow tries to lend understanding
Pain is caused
while sorrow is felt
Pain is an instrument of our malignancies
While sorrow deals in empathetic reasoning
Pain just stabs
But the sorrow moves through me
Pain is akin to hatred
While sorrow is a friend of love
Sorrow sets me ablaze with passion
While the pain just causes me to self-destruct
I hope that one day sorrow will lead me gently
from this life
But I fear that it is pain which will be my end

 

Posted for dVerse Poets, Open Link Night #204, September 21, 2017

J. D. Salinger, Genius and Madman

J. D. Salinger’s novel “Catcher in the Rye,” is a famous classic, ever-relevant piece of work. The novel was published in 1951 and quickly acquired acclaim, but before its release, it was brutally shot down more than once. Salinger was told that his main character was insane and a family with four exceptional children was untenable.

When “Catcher in the Rye” was published, J. D. Salinger was unprepared for the admiration he’d receive. Holden Caufield, the “insane” main character was based on himself, and he never expected so many to make a connection with his character or himself.

“Catcher in the Rye” is what will come to one’s mind when Salinger’s name is mentioned, but he has also published many, short stories; in fact, it was his intention to write one story a week. The characters in his stories and the flesh and blood members of his family often competed for his attention, love, and affection. Indeed, he built a “bunker” on his property where he’d stay over a week at a time, and while he was there, all knew to leave him alone. Salinger quit publishing his stories in 1965, but he never stopped writing. After his death in 2010, it was found he had written as many as 5 new novels which he had stipulated could not be published until after his death.

Salinger’s need and obsession with seclusion isolated his family so much that they began to feel his depression and loneliness. His wife filed for divorce.

Salinger wasn’t always so reclusive; in fact, early in his career, he visited clubs and was quite sociable. Salinger was always eccentric, an extreme perfectionist and a bit unstable in his moods. He ended a friendship with an editor, calling him names, making accusations of betrayal and storming out of the restaurant, because the editor had allowed the title of one of his stories to be changed. He once fell into a depression, because one comma was added to another story.

J. D. Salinger was a genius ensconced in madness. In the 1980’s, three assassins blamed their actions on their fascination with the Holden Caulfield, the main character of “Catcher in the Rye.” They blamed their actions on the “darkness” found in Caufield’s soul; essentially, placing the blame for their actions on Salinger’s life and art. But did Chapman murder John Lennon because of this book? Did Hinckley attempt to murder Reagan because of it? Was actress Rebecca Schaeffer slain by Bardo because he identified with Caulfield, a tormented young man seeking his place in the world? No, these actions were made by tormented men unable to find their place in the world, and they will be forgotten.

J. D. Salinger, on the other hand, will be remembered as the tormented young man who found his place, despite how out of place he felt.

 

Working to Make a Change

Joanne Sheer has taken it upon herself to collect data regarding the number of prisoners convicted under the Felony Murder Rule law. After losing her only son to this archaic law, she started the “Felony Murder Rule Elimination Project” hoping to bring about a much needed change.

The Felony Murder Rule allows defendants to be charged with First Degree Murder (which typically requires premeditation), if a death (accidental or otherwise) occurs during the commission of a felony. I was charged and found guilty of murder based on a second degree burglary of a vehicle. I discussed this in more detail in a recent essay called “Never Too Late” . According to the law, everyone involved is “on the hook,” as my judge put it, despite how small or large a role they played in the crime. Yet, my co-defendant was given a deal for his testimony, while I got life. This is an example of a law that can not provide equal justice to both sides.

In April of 2016, AB2195 (Bonilla) was introduced and called for data collection on the number of people sentenced and convicted under this law. Their first concern was not the fairness of this law but what it would do to the prison population in California, if it were eliminated. Overcrowding is still an issue, and little has been done for “lifers,” although a Stanford Study that tracked 100 lifers out on parole over a number years found that only 5 reoffended and none for murder.

I made a terrible mistake ten years ago, when I was a foolish and inexperienced young man. Every day I try to learn a lesson and sometimes it’s painful. I know what I did was wrong, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I can do right, and I think that eventually I deserve a second chance to prove this true.

Please go to change.org and sign the petitions to abolish this law:

Abolish the Felony Murder Rule in America
Repeal the Felony Murder Rule in California

Education and Parole

August 28, 2017 was the first official day of my second semester at Feather River College. This semester I’m taking English 103, Critical Thinking (ways of reading for writers). I’ll be reading important essays and writing 1,500-2,000 word essays in response, using critical thinking skills and persuasive/argumentative formulas to agree or disagree with the author. I look forward to sharing my writing on these topics with you as well as my essays from last semester.

Last semester I took English 101, and today, I received my final overall grade, (A-), which I suppose is pretty great but for that pesky little minus sign. I received an A or A- on most of my assignments except the exemplification essay for which I received a B. I aced my midterms though, earning 50 of 50 possible points. For my final exam, I had to write an essay in class titled “Why Is Writing Important?”

By completing these 3 units with an overall A, I earn a milestone of one week off my sentence. Yes! So I’m earning an education and a path to parole.

Trivia: Mark Twain

 

Mark Twain once said, “Everybody praises them, but few people actually read them these days.” What was he referencing?

September Book Review

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy is the dexterous author of several great family sagas, including The Great Santini. The Great Santini is a wonderfully descriptive and believable story about a military family with an intriguing dynamic. Pat Convoy digs deep to deliver complex characters, each with a unique personality, goals, and desires. The conflict is tangible and the end of each scene leaves the reader looking forward to the next.

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