Check it out!
My poem, “Adultery”, is Pick of the Week on Best American Poetry Blog. Thank you, Terence Winch, for selecting my work.
New Book Launch!
October 6, 2021: I’ll be launching my new poetry collection based on my volunteer work in three Maryland prisons, Once You’re Inside. Stay tuned for details on launch readings.
Here’s a lovely blurb from Dr. Laura Bates, English professor at Indiana State University and author of Shakespeare Saved My Life:
“Ann Bracken’s poetry collection, Once You’re Inside, is jammed with meaningful vignettes about people in prison. Without being the least bit sentimental, she gives the reader insight into the minds and feelings of a wide range of incarcerated people—real people we can almost know from her poems. Each poem stands well alone, but read the entire book for a truthful portrayal of what life in prison is like.”
Once You’re Inside is a poetry collection that details Ann Bracken’s volunteer experiences working in prison-based
writing programs. Prison was the last place on her mind when she thought about volunteering. Why would she want to work with those people—drug dealers, gang members, and murderers? But after a few visits, she became a regular volunteer in a couple of Maryland’s prisons for three years. Her friends and family were shocked every time she went back. “They’re not who you think they are,” she told them. The people Bracken met hungered to learn, yet their educations halted at the GED level. And many of them, like Vincent, had spent half their lives in prison. “I came here when I was 15. Now, I’m 40.” Others experienced neglect. Ryan confessed, “I was misguided. I had no sense of self-worth.” And saddest of all, one of the women told her, “You’re the first new person we’ve seen in seven years.” The poems in Once You’re Inside will introduce you to memorable characters living in impossibly tragic conditions. People working to re-enter society, if only someone would give them a chance.
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.