Sunday, February 26, 2012




Whoever said ‘tis better to have loved and lost

than ne’er to have loved a’tall apparently

ne’er suffered the rapier thrust of betrayal

piercing through and through his heart, then felt

the withdrawal ripping, deflating, the soul exhaling

with a whisper…gone…gone…‘till

the next time, when new love

seals the tears with hope that,

this time, this time,

love will last


        by Charles Patrick Norman

Sunday, February 5, 2012

DOING TIME: 25 Years of Prison Writing,” A review

Dateline: Jan. 26, 2012

Accolades are due Bell Chevigny’s opening of the prison literary vaults at PEN for the world to see in DOING TIME: 25 Years of Prison Writing. As one of the original prisoner contributors, with “Pearl Got Stabbed,” to the 1999 edition, I was anxious to see not only how well the writings held up against the passage of time, but also whether the works retained their relevance in the “modern” world of corrections. I needn’t have been concerned.

I’d scarcely returned with my copy of the new book to the rec yard, crowded with prisoners when an old convict spied the provocative cover art of a hand grasping steel bars, and asked, “What you got there? Can I see that?”

Several curious men crowded around to see. Prisoners are nosy. I explained where I got the book and read some passages out loud. They were captivated. Old timers nodded in recognition of the universality of prison experiences and young prisoners, “newcocks,” stood transfixed in thought. The reaction by the guards was even more revealing.

I asked an older, experienced correctional officer for his opinion, handing him the book. In between his duties, he seemed rapt in concentration, reading. Then a younger, more gung ho “hotshot” guard, one of those who come into prison needing to prove their toughness, joined the older man, who passed him the book. Two hours later I finally got my book back.

The younger man looked at me, shook his head, seemingly chastened, and said, “I had no idea.”

The older man said, “Wow!”

DOING TIME is a timeless work of prison literature that should be required reading for those involved in the world of corrections, from prisoners and guards, corrections officials, legislators who pass increasingly draconian laws, lawyers and judges, to the state governors who sign the death warrants and free those souls from Hell.

Ms. Chevigny’s insightful additions to the 2011 volume, her masterful introduction and commentaries, the significance of encouraging America’s prisoners to write, what their words say about our society, and what became of the fifty-one women and men chosen to represent the other 2.3 million people incarcerated in this country, provide a poignant counterpoint to the selections. We owe her a debt of gratitude.

I am honored to have been included in such rare company.

Charles P. Norman Wakulla C.I. Annex, Crawfordville, FL

ORDERING INFORMATION — DOING TIME: 25 Years of Prison Writing, A PEN American Center Prize Anthology, edited by Bell Gale Chevigny, Foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, Copyright 2011 by PEN American Center, Arcade Publishing, New York City, NY, ISBN: 978-1-61145-144-3 $17.95.

DOING TIME is available from the publisher at, amd ($12.21) or your local bookstore.