Editor's Note, by Chris Gerben

Plasma Screens as Portals to the World, by Alyssa J. O'Brien

Tutoring Graduate Students in the Writing Center, by John Peterson and Joel Burges

PWR awards outstanding student work with IRAs and OPRAs, compiled by Wendy Goldberg & Chris Gerben

Students Publish Work in New Anthology: Official Book Introduction with Preface by Wendy Goldberg

Stanford Library Honors Boothe Prize Winner in Podcast

PWR Instructors Leaving the Farm


I haven’t noticed it before, but I am an extremely dominant person. All my life I have been submissive and let everybody walk all over me—now it’s my turn. I do this by writing. That way I can control my dominant nature in a safe way, while getting paid! I’ve experienced all of the emotions in my poems first hand, along with thousands of others, but when you mix that with my creativity to write and my vocabulary, and the gross amount of books I’ve read, the effect is dazzling. So, all in all, I have found my calling. You, my wonderful reader, are taking part in a life-changing moment for me, documented by an eighteen-year-old felon with a pen. Isn’t that amazing in itself? Well, I owe it all to you, Beat. Forever gracious, Dominic. I am a writer .

- Dominick, thebeatwithin.org

Sometimes, being proud of what you write is all you need to have a good day.

-Anna Bethune, Stanford University

I must confess that unlike my esteemed colleagues, my relationship with writing has been a less loving one. In fact, when I filed my dissertation at Berkeley in 2000, it was with the intention of returning to a state where reading was a pleasure divorced from writing, particularly academic writing that, to me, valued obscure, theoretical, politically unengaged, emotionally barren expression. So rather than “go on the job market,” I began volunteering at a non-profit, The Beat Within, which conducts writing workshops in juvenile halls around the Bay Area.

Although this may seem like a completely improbable transition, my dissertation, Dead Men Talking, examines 18th century execution sermons and crime narratives composed by-ish and about Africans in colonial and early America, and analyzes the historical, legal, and literary connections between blackness, criminality and writing. Sadly, the conflation of blackness and criminality evident in the 18th century has not changed significantly in the present day. For this reason and others, I became determined to understand more about these seemingly intractable bonds, and to contribute, in some tiny way, to loosening them in my everyday life, rather than just writing about them for an audience I believed was just interested in their academic significance, not their lived consequences. At The Beat Within, instead of ruminating about the messages sent by dead black men, I worked with mostly African American, Latino, and Asian incarcerated youth providing them with a venue in which to write, and hopefully, better understand, their stories. What I learned from these young men and women literally changed my view of the world (and teaching), and shook me out of my comfortable suburban stupor.


I was the associate director of The Beat Within for five years, and in this capacity helped run several writing workshops and produce the weekly publications comprised of writing and art by and for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth and adults. The best part of the job was going into juvenile hall facilities around the Bay Area and working with individuals who typically felt unheard and unseen, especially in anything resembling a classroom setting. In a workshop of 15-20 participants, the writers ranged from nearly illiterate to linguistically proficient. Some were non-native English speakers, and most, particularly in urban areas, spoke nonstandard English, a sort of Ebonics that signifies, I discovered, class much more than race. So in any one workshop I would go from acting as an amanuensis to offering suggestions to an accomplished writer to simply talking with a participant about his or her case, family, difficulties, loves—whatever they chose to share. And at the end of each workshop, we encouraged the writers to read their prose or poetry aloud.


The goal of The Beat Within program is twofold: First, to reveal to the writers that they have valuable things to say and teach based on their life experiences; and two, to locate the participants in a community of writers, who most often share similar, and often isolating, experiences. Thus, in the weekly workshops, as facilitators we did all we could to create an inviting, comfortable place to speak and write. Second, to enhance the sense of community, The Beat prints the writings produced in the workshops each week in The Beat Within publication and brings this 80-100-page magazine, filled with the art and writing produced in each of the six counties in which it conducts workshops, back to the writers themselves so they can see their work and the work of their community members in print.

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