The widely published and award-winning poetry and prose in this book was inspired by a year spent working as Writer in Residence at HMP Nottingham Prison, where David Swann’s job was to spread literacy in a Category ‘B’ jail housing a wide range of prisoners, ranging from petty crooks to lifers. The jail was built on the vestiges of a low moor, itself once part of Sherwood Forest. The former haunt of legendary outlaws, it was left with just a handful of trees, one of which was rumoured to be rooted in the bodies of executed criminals. Taxi drivers rarely knew how to find the jail. Foxes came and went through the grounds. Rain fell every Thursday.
During the year, two new wings were built, and remand prisoners shipped into the old Victorian wing. As the jail groaned under the expansion programme, routines were transformed, and tensions increased. The Privilege of Rain reflects on the writer’s role in the rehabilitation of offenders, and finds poetry in a lonely place, where ordinary objects like flasks and rain become charged with new meaning, and where language is pressured into fresh shapes:
Staff talked about going ‘on the wing’; time was ‘bird’. They named it ‘stir’, and it never moved.
Cells were ‘pads’, as if they’d cushion a fall, or patch a wound, or launch them. I had come
‘inside’ and found the edge.