Memoirs

The Girl Behind the Smile, in Word: On Being a Woman Writer (Feminist Press, 2004)

Judith Clark is a poet, Independent scholar, peer-educator, and lifelong activist. Since 1983 she has been serving a sentence of seventy-five years to life at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Born in Brooklyn to a politically radical family, at age fourteen Clark began her activist work in the civil rights movement. As Clark notes, working “in the radical social movements of the era defined my life before prison. But my own unacknowledged needs and psychological issues drove me further and further into the extreme margins of those movements.” In 1981 Clark was arrested as the get-away driver in an armed robbery, “During which three people were killed.” Although she declared herself a political prisoner during her trial and moved herself to a basement holding cell, Clark’s later two-year lockup in solitary confinement nearly broke her. During this difficult time she turned to books, “particularly women writers.” It was also while in lockup that clark began writing daily. Initially a record of the deep resonance she felt when reading writers like Joan Nestle, Alice Walker, and Grace Paley, her journal soon evolved into a space for exploring, through poetry and memoir, her own voice and world.

So Here I Am, in Red Diaper Babies (University of Illinois Press, 1998)

Born in New York City in 1949, Judith Clark was active in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. She has been imprisoned since 1981 at Bedford Hills, New York, State’s maximum security prison for women, on charges stemming from an armed robbery in which three people were killed. Clark completed studies for her bachelor’s degree while in prison, twenty years after being expelled from the University of Chicago for participating in a 1969 sit-in. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology.
Clark Teaches prenatal and parenting classes at Bedford Hills. She has published several articles about mothers in prison, and her poetry as appeared in the New Yorker and other publications. In this memoir, she describes, without self-pity, the political evolution that led to her imprisonment.

Filed under: Judy's Writing