Marilyn Buck’s Playlist

“Marilyn Buck’s Playlist” is a deeply thoughtful appreciation of Marilyn by Dan Berger, published in Polygraph number 23/24 (2013). A PDF file of the article is available to download from

Dan looks at Marilyn, his friend by means of correspondence, as “student rebel, feminist, media maker, anti-imperialist, solidarity activist, insurrectionist, political prisoner, poet, translator, internationalist, artist, antiracist. Sister, daughter, niece, aunt, cousin, teacher, student, godmother, friend, comrade.” “The promise of national liberation to revoke the license of empire, to literally and figuratively redraw the map of political power, drew Marilyn and countless others into the whirlwind of revolutionary action … When she was incarcerated as a result, she theorized confinement and the gendered racism of state power. This work … became an inspiration to the abolitionist dream of a world without cages. If the guerrilla was the image of national liberation, the prisoner is the figure of the contemporary movement for abolition. As guerrilla and as prisoner, Marilyn embodied the political periphery of two different eras.”

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East Bay Book Launch of Marilyn Buck’s Inside/ Out: Selected Poems

Sunday, June 17, 2012
3:00 pm until 5:00 pm
East Side Cultural Center
2266 International Blvd.
Oakland CA

Join Us as we Celebrate the East Bay Book Launch of Marilyn Buck’s Inside/ Out: Selected Poems.  
Readers Include: Maisha Quint, Maria Poblet and Elana Levy

Additional book launches will be held in NYC, Philadelphia, LA, Chicago, Austin, Albuquerque, Kentucky, as well as the Green Arcade on June 6th and at Modern Times on June 27th in San Francisco and. Details will be posted as we learn them.

Info on the book and online orders at:


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Inside / Out: Selected Poems by Marilyn Buck


City Lights will publish this wonderful, very substantial selection of Marilyn Buck’s poetry on May 15. The first book launch event takes place the next evening, May 16, at City Lights Bookstore, featuring David Meltzer (who wrote the preface) and others TBA.

Additional book launches will be held in NYC, Philadelphia, LA, Chicago, Austin, Albuquerque, Kentucky, Oakland and elsewhere, as well as at Modern Times and the Green Arcade in San Francisco. Details will be posted here as we learn them.

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ExSE Poetry Showcase Honors Marilyn

This afternoon I recorded my set for East by Southeast, Austin, TX’ annual public access television poetry showcase. This year I chose to honor Marilyn with my performance. I read two poems by others that have appeared here, “Catch” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and “Red Poppy for Marilyn” by Jewelle Gomez. I read two of Marilyn’s poems, “Undocumented”, both in English as it appeared in Monthly Review and in Spanish (“Indocumentada”) as translated by Puerto Rico’s Claridad, and “To the Woman Standing Behind Me in Line Who AsksMe How Long This Black History Month Is Going to Last”, as seen in March 1998’s Sojourner. Finally, I read two of my own poems, “For Poets Who Die in Mid-Life”, dedicated to Marilyn and to other recently passed poets, including the inimitable poet-journalist John Ross, and “Egypt-Land”, previously seen in The Rag Blog, a celebration of the current freedom struggles in the MidEast that I would have loved to have shared with my sister-poet.

It felt great to remember Marilyn in this way and to share her poetry, and the poems of others who loved her, with a wide audience. The show, airing in May, will be shown many times during the coming year.

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Deadline soon for poetry contest honoring Marilyn

The March 31, 2011 deadline for an Austin Poetry Society annual awards contest honoring Marilyn Buck is soon approaching. Bay Area poet Maria Poblet will be judging this contest. See the earlier posts here on this topic for details!
With all of the wonderful poems appearing here, we are hoping for some excellent entries in this contest (first prize is $100).

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Two Essays by Marilyn …

… have been reprinted in the new issue of California Prison Focus, (Number 36 Winter 2011) a big issue with many great articles. Marilyn’s articles are:

  1. “Cruel But Not Unusual: The Punishment of Women in U.S. Prisons – An Interview with Marilyn Buck and Laura Whitehorn” by Susie Day. It is reprinted from Monthly Review and can also be found here, and
  2. “Prisons, Social Control and Political Prisoners” (1999) reprinted from Crossroad and Social Justice and it can also be found here.

These articles complement the lead article on “The Social Psychology of Isolation” by Craig Haney, not to mention many shorter reports on current cases and struggles.

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Poster from Eastside Arts Alliance

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Poems of 12 Political Prisoners includes one of Marilyn Buck’s

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Human Liberation, a poem for Marilyn

I only became aware of Marilyn after watching a DVD of the history of the Black Panthers.  I started corresponding with her in early 2007 and would like to think we became friends.  She was generous in her critique of my poetry. In “Autobiographi” she said:

wait for its prisoners to die
or go crazy
or simply wither away into insignificance”

Marilyn may have died but as long as there are people whose first concern is justice and respect for each other she will never wither away. This is a poem I wrote for her. In her modest way she stated that she didn’t think she measured up to my picture of her.

Human Liberation

– for Marilyn Buck, political prisoner

two million mostly black and brown
expensive in lives
expensive in dollars
slow genocide

who knows if you did
any of what empire accused
but when the average murderer
serves seven years inside
your eighty year sentence
is clearly unjust

three women living in a whitewashed concrete
cage built for one
no room
no property
no space
stored like lost baggage

the casual cruelty of male violence
keeps your female body in line
watching you in the shower
on the toilet
patting your body familiarly
for weapons of mass destruction
missing the missiles of your words
targeting you
expecting you
to cringe as a controlled victim

you must have scared them
Texas white girl
hanging with the brothers
looking for justice
looking for human rights
looking for women’s equality
you must have scared them
after sixteen years inside
they locked you in a hole in a hole
September 11 terrorism

a paranoid police state
will never celebrate you
they cannot force you
to cut out your own tongue

by Larry Kerschner,  peacepoet at

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