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Book Review: ‘Sack Nasty: Prison Poetry’ – Ra Avis


It is highly recommended that you click the image above to visit Ra Avis’s Amazon page. Now, if you’d really like to do something, visit her blog. No, wait! Do that after reading this, of course, to pick up a very specific smidge of context.

But before I say that, a dash more context to set up the smidge:

Ra is one of the first people I met when I first dug out this cave. I followed her space and she graciously followed mine. They both looked quite different then, but the basics have remained over the years — we both, like other bloggers, write stuff.

We tell stories.

We rage sometimes.

We laugh and cry — occasionally (okay, okay — full disclosure: often) at the same time.

(dusts hands) Right! Now, onto the smidge.

Ra went through some very unpleasant juju. Go to her blog — read it for yourself. It is not my place to recap and I won’t because it’s not my story to tell. Out of some of that came ‘Sack Nasty’.

We call the brown bags and the content in them a Sack Nasty.

And we never trust

what they feed us.

Not the food.

And never,


the lies. (Sack Nasty, pp. 8-9)

Ra and others who know me (or at least who follow my Facebook feed with any bit of interest) know that I make up words. To that end, her text has caused me to create one that encapsulates … what is a new genre.

Yes, I get lofty about my epiphanies and creations. I am a writer, so that’s what happens.

This genre is called the stoetry, a conflagration of story and poetry where one is consumed by the other until what comes out is both.

She wasn’t a doctor,

but she was a woman

who had lived a lot of life.

More than most. More than me.

She said the doctors

couldn’t test my lady song,

but that she could hear

the silence of my heart. (Lady Song, p. 100)

Ra’s stoems are full to the rim with reality — one that most people walk by every day without acknowledgment. Yet, by putting each story, each person, each moment in this book, Ra forces the universe to recognize that not all reality is pink bunnies and sunshine. As the intro to that TV show, The Darkside, intoned: ‘a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit …’:

The cop speaking to me seems like a nice lady. She’s outraged over my sentence, arguing that a male would have gotten half the time. The male cop claims any Los Angeles resident would have gotten half the time. No matter to me.

I did the time I did. (Doing Time, p. 115)

There is more to be said, but again, it isn’t my place. I give you a taste in expectation that you will get your own copy and digest it, many times over. It will inspire you to, at least, dust off your quill and papyrus and get to the business of writing. It did that to me and in a surprising way (stay tuned for my own stoetry collection that is being constructed and deconstructed, even as you read this).

And when you finish that you will tell others. Heck, buy a few copies and pass them about.

Once you and your compadres do that, figure out what else you’ll do to end the silence for the women Ra writes about. They need us.

If you can’t contribute cash money to an organization, offer yourself — volunteer to be a support link for women inside and those who have returned to this outside place. As it states a bit later in ‘Doing Time’, ‘The cuffs come off, but not really.’

That is real.




  1. rarasaur July 29, 2016 6:16 pm

    This is so kind and beautiful. I thought I couldn’t get any more excited than I was over the new word genre (as always, you’ve found a way to speak to my heart)… but then you promised AR stoems. I’m VERY excited about that. <3 Love you.

    • AR Neal July 29, 2016 6:49 pm

      Love you, sis! I chatted Bill up about writing something … but this wasn’t it. However, it has taken on a life of its own and so, there it is. The notebook will be alongside the bed as I suspect the night will bring more stoetic epiphanies …

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