I grew up in the heart of the Mojave Desert in Barstow, a small town in California. At the age of 19 I became involved in a dispute that resulted in a killing. After an error-ridden racist trial in 1977 I was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. I have served time at eight of Californias thirty-three prisons.
The only way I can respond to you directly is through regular mail. Letter writing is still a wonderful art. I do have access to the telephone but can only make collect calls. I would call anyone who wants to hear me read poetry and play the flute. I would consider it an honor.
About three years ago, Grammy Award winning flute player Mary Youngblood came into Arts-in-Corrections and I did a native American flute workshop. It was the first time I had ever played the flute and the first moment I blew it, it came as natural to me as breathing or feeling my heart beat. Not long after I started to play the flute to fellow prisoners, guards and free staff began to compliment me on my flow and when I play people look for a radio or CD and say I should do an album.
I've had two books published in 2010; By Heart - a double memoir and Longer Ago. I had a chapbook of poems called No Distance Between Two Points published in the 1980's. I also write plays, novels, articles, fairy tales and short stories. I was a teacher's aid for many years - currently I teach poetry and prose classes at New Folsom prison Creative Arts program.
In 1985 Spoon began a four year poetry course at San Quentin State Prison led by writer and teacher Judith Tannenbaum who saw his talent and also became a friend and mentor. Prisoners, staff and poets from the outside began calling Spoon "poet". He has won four awards from PEN American Center Prison Writing Program. He played Pozzo in the 1988 production of Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" directed by Jan Jönsson which brought him international attention.
In 2003, Michel Wenzer produced a documentary in Sweden entitled "Three Poems by Spoon Jackson." The film included recordings of Spoon reciting his poems, taped from telephone calls.
Michel Wenzer has also made a full length documentary: "At night I fly - Images from New Folsom" which premiered in November 2011 in Sweden and won the prestigeous "Guldbagge Award" (the "Swedish Oscar") for best documentary of the year. The documentary was intended to be about Spoon and his work. The prison authorities didn't allow for one prisoner to be portayed so Michel instead decided to film a group of prisoners participating in the Arts In Correction program. Spoon is one of them.
"Freedom for the prisoners" and "Words of realness" two works for choir and orchestra by Swedish composer Stefan Säfsten based on Spoon's poems, premiered in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2006 the first work was performed in the prison where Spoon is housed on a US tour. Two CD's has been produced with their collaborative work. They are now working on a musical based on both CD's and chapters from the book By Heart.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have seriously slashed rehabilitation programs in recent years, among them the Arts-in-Corrections program where Spoon is teaching. Spoon writes on prison reforms in San Francisco Chronicle 2006; ”...ultimately, rehabilitation is always self-rehabilitation. Prison had to offer the programs, and I had to make myself active in these programs and in my own self-directed studies. Self-rehabilitation works. I had to choose to change, which meant to get to know myself and find my niche, bliss and myth in life. I had to till the endless gardens in my mind, heart and soul. I had to become anew, despite being in prison. ”