So pleased to have Fourth River publish my poem “Dress Code for the Women’s Prison” on their site. I discovered this rule while volunteering in a writing group for imprisoned women in Maryland. The poem is featured in my new collection of work related to volunteering in the prisons, The Prisons on Constitution Street.
I’ve long admired Robert Whitaker’s blog Mad in America. I’m honored to have my post featured there, and I hope you’ll take the time to read ” The Answers in the Attic: A Mother-Daughter Story of Overmedication and Recovery.”
I’m so pleased the Every Writer decided to publish my poem “The Code,” a poem about suspending judgement in a writing group for incarcerated men and women.
I’m honored to have my poem about the incarcerated women who work as CalFire firefighters posted today at New Verse News. The poem is a persona poem–in the voice of one of the incarcerated women–and tells her story. The title of the poem is “$1 a day to Fight the Largest Fire in CA History,” and is based on a story that I heard on Democracy Now.
Thanks to everyone who came to the Roland Park reading. You were a great crowd, and I appreciate your support!
I met so many wonderful folks at the Currere Exchange, and I plan to go back next year.
There is a story here.
It’s a story that we have in recent months been hearing more and more… a story of good intentions gone awry… maybe a story of greed or laziness or fear or blind hope or desperation, or maybe a story of good people caught up in an inherently flawed system, or maybe a story of human limitation, wishful thinking, or hubris. The theme or moral is maybe not simple, but the story itself is clear: lives are damaged.
The stories of damage wrought as a consequence from over-prescription (or faulty prescription) to medication for mental health challenges are becoming as common as those of seemingly miraculous return of health and self from medication dispensed properly end effectively.
Cautionary tales of damage are not going to be seen in ads alongside those put out by pharmaceutical companies’ campaigns celebrating the sunny side of their product. Pharmaceutical companies have an especially large megaphone (deep pockets) with which to amplify their narrative of good; those withered by unintended and unexpected consequences do not have platforms for visibility to compare.
So we are doing what we can to provide in our small way such a platform. That is why on June 27 at Sticks & Stones: Finale, we dedicate a section of the exhibition and a part of the program to the stories told by Nancye Hesaltine (who made the watercolors shown here, drawings that trace her story) and Ann Bracken of their own (and in Ann’s case, her mother’s, whose fashion drawing from the 1930’s is also shown here) experiences with decades of prescription drugs, where it led their lives, and what has happened since. It is a story of loss, a story of grief, and a story of return and restoration. It is a story of courageous choices and hard roads. It is a human story – one we need to know if we are to better understand the complexities of medication, the limits of science, and the resilience of the human spirit. It is a story we all can learn from in becoming agents of our own best interests. It is a story worth knowing.
Jump-start Your Creative Writing: East Columbia Library, September 11, 2019 1-2:30pm (registration details coming soon)
Do you have stories inside just begging to be told? Do lots of great ideas fill your imagination? Is there something you want to say but you don’t know where to begin? Then this class is for you. Ann Bracken has published numerous essays, interviews and two books of poetry since she began her writing career. During this class, students will explore a variety of basic techniques to enhance any type of creative writing you want to pursue, including memoir, fiction, and poetry. In this class, we’ll explore and practice using image and figurative language, specific and concrete details, and varying the pacing and rhythm of lines and sentences. All of these techniques can help to propel your writing from good to great.
Hamilton Street Club, June 5, 2019, Baltimore 12pm-2pm Rescheduled for Fall, 2019
Ann Bracken will discuss and read poetry from her 2015 volume, The Altar of Innocence, which explores ideas associated with family secrets and trauma and the many ways a family is affected by the serious emotional struggles of other family members. Ms. Bracken has training and wide experience in using poetry and the arts in healing and will discuss how poetry and journaling can be used to reach those who struggle with the all-too-common human experiences of severe emotional distress.
No Barking in the Hallways
No Barking in the Hallways offers a rare glimpse into the lives of teachers and students in America’s public schools. I have worked as a special education teacher and college professor since 1974 and have taught many unforgettable students. Unfortunately, the voices of students and teachers are rarely heard in any meaningful way, especially when it comes to discussing the state of American public education. Poetry offers people who have no voice a way to enter the debate—the teachers and students who fill America’s classrooms, attempting to teach and to learn, to be both ethical and successful in a system that often thwarts those efforts.
Praise for No Barking in the Hallways
“With poignant and sometimes painful imagery, Bracken creates moments in which we could easily be standing alongside her in the classroom, bearing witness to each moment as it unfolds. Collectively, the poems in No Barking in the Hallways are a window into a system that is more damaged than the circumstances faced by of some of the children the system claims to serve. Yet the language is always equally as beautiful as the children for whom these poems are written. For anyone who has ever worked in schools and with children, or for those who appreciate how language can transform lives, this collection of poems is for you.”
~Morna McDermott McNulty, Associate Professor, College of Education, Towson University
“In Bracken’s hands, poetry becomes a peculiarly effective way to convey the reality of the classroom. Individual poems are intensely focused on a single person, giving a voice to those whose voices are rarely heard. Together these poems create an unforgettable mosaic of the experience of teaching students, whether they are learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, or stressed in other ways.”
~B. Morrison, author of Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, Here at Least, and Terrarium
The Altar of Innocence
Mine involved alcoholism and depression and their effects on the young girl who witnessed the roller-coaster ride of mental illness and self-medication. I explore the issues of my parents’ unspoken lessons by writing through three lenses: conjectures of what my mother may have felt, recollections of key childhood events and my own journey to overcome depression. Find out what I learned in The Altar of Innocence, available January 30, 2015.
I offer my story as a glimpse into the secret worlds that so many still inhabit. We are never as alone as we think.
Praise for The Altar of Innocence
“Ann Bracken creates a vibrant dialogue with her reader. Her emotional vocabulary is wholeheartedly offered to us like a gift to the world. Bracken’s strength comes from an equilibrium between idea and performance—interior and exterior lives, smartly drawn. With a strong voice, vitally engaged, she presents characters and behavior without judgment. Poetry is the vehicle that makes us laugh and cry at her Altar of Innocence.”
~ Grace Cavalieri, poet and producer of the radio show “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress”
“The Altar of Innocence offers readers a rare and compassionate look at depression. By telling her mother’s story and sharing her own, Ann Bracken takes us on an intimate journey through two generations of mental illness and ultimate healing. Readers will find hope in her journey.”
~ Laura Shovan, author of Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone, and winner of the Harriss Poetry Prize.