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Prison art teacher’s memoir weaves family, poetry, and vocation

Heather King | The Crux

Deborah Tobola is known as a visionary pioneer in the field of arts in U.S. corrections.

She is a graduate of the University of Montana, and has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. Her prose and poetry have won several awards. She has worked as a waitress, journalist, legislative aide, and adjunct English faculty member in Alaska and California.

She currently serves as executive director of The Poetic Justice Project, an organization that “advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment, and redemption.”

Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men’s Prison,” out this year from She Writes Press ($17), is ostensibly an account of Tobola’s nine-year tenure at the California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo.

But this mesmerizing hybrid is much more: part family memoir, part prison system snapshot, partly a narrative of the making of a poet. Read more on Angelus News.