The Power of Writing in Prison

Everyone is entitled to paper and a pencil

The Koestler Awards receive over 1,000 poems each year, making it our most popular category. While art materials can be difficult to get hold of in prison, everyone is entitled to paper and something to write with.

Arthur Koestler, who co-founded the charity in 1962, found writing an invaluable escape and source of solace during his own time in prison. The Koestler Awards encourage people in custody to use creativity as a tool for self-expression; increasing well-being, engagement with education and personal development.

In 2017, with the help of our wonderful supporters, we released our first poetry anthology, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons – Volume 1 to present some of the incredible writing talent from the 2016 and 2017 Koestler Awards. We were delighted to follow this up with Volume 2 in 2019 and continue our work giving a platform to individuals whose voices often go unheard.

Many of our entrants have written about the powerful impact writing has had on their lives.

Poetry judges from the 2019 Koestler Awards also told us about their experiences teaching poetry in prisons, seeing how writing can unlock memories and emotions. Read the interview below.

Interview with poetry judges, Rachel Kelly, Joelle Taylor & Tobi Kyeremateng