In-Sight: The Artists and Writers of San Quentin Prison – Bill Clark (#K-80703)

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Founded in 2015 by London-based artist Nicola White, Art Reach is a charity which gives purpose and hope to death row inmates in the US, providing art materials, regular meaningful contact, and the opportunity to exhibit their work here in the UK. To support the valuable work that Nicola is doing to support some of America’s most ostracised citizens, and to recognise the human rights of death row inmates in the US and beyond, we will be dedicating the next few weeks to the artwork and writing of the men she supports at San Quentin Prison, California.


Bill Clark
Bill Clark was sentenced to death in 1997.

After the shock and horror of landing on death row for crimes I did not commit, I decided I would use the unprecedented amount of free time I had to nurture my mind, my heart and my spirit. I knew the best, most effective way to do this was by utilizing my creative talents and abilities. In short, I wanted to make sure I maintained my sanity, my sense of humanity and my resolve to be a productive member of society.

Because of the safety and security limits placed on a death row inmates, my options to exercise my creativity were confined to something I could write or draw on paper. I began by drawing humorous greeting cards and political comics. Around this same time, I started writing poetry and essays on political and social commentary. A few years later, I graduated to stage plays, children’s books and movie scripts.  I have been looking for my big break for around 15 years now.

But despite my unfulfilled search for success, I love writing and drawing.  Plus, I honestly believe my persistence in pursuing success will eventually pay off. But equally as important is the fact writing and drawing give my life a sense of purpose and meaning, while serving as a buffer to the harsh, inhumane and demoralizing rigors of my predicament.

The End of Your Rope

Miles up, dangling from the edge of a cliff. Facing a certain and painful death.  One hand, one sweaty palm desperately clinging to a thin and tattered rope. As strand by strand of the rope continues to snap, you become despondent, reflective and consumed by fear. Your life flashes before you. Fond memories temporarily distract you from the harsh reality of your predicament.  Nourished by your memories, your spirits being to rise. Thoughts of unfulfilled dreams, missed opportunities and unfinished plans seep in and usher you back to the moment.

Suddenly, you hear a voice. The voice is soothing, cheerful and strangely familiar. Now directly overhead, you look up and see the face behind the voice.  The face is kind, warm and charming. Touched by the possibility of emancipation and friendship, you smile.

This new potential friend looks down, recognises your potential dilemma and offers to help. Grabbing the rope, the kind soul slowly begins to pull you to safety, constantly encouraging, inspiring and assuring that all will be well. As you begin to ascent, you’re overwhelmed with gratitude. You start to regain hope, strength and belief in yourself, your life and humanity. Plus, the voice, the face and the person behind each, you now consider a genuine friend and ally.

Without warning, your new friend stops pulling and let’s go of the rope. You slide further down the cliff and rope than you originally were. You call out. You get no response. You look up, but no one is there. Bewildered, despondent and powerless, you realise the kind soul is gone. You’re at the end of your rope.

What do you do now?
Almost Dead

I don’t see the day you see,
The Day I see is bleak.
I see bars, well armed guards,
And things that make hearts weak.

I don’t see the sun that shines,
I don’t see the stars.
I see pain, misery,
And bodies etched with scars.

I don’t see the flowers grow,
I don’t see the trees.
I see doubt, hopelessness,
And lots of trembling knees.

I don’t see the rivers flowing.
I don’t see the streams.
I see waste, deficiency,
And men with shattered dreams.

I don’t see integrity,
I don’t see the truth.
I see men who’ve lost their mind,
And men who’ve lost their youth.

I don’t see the happiness,
I don’t see the pride.
I see doom, suffering,
And men whose souls have died.

I don’t see prosperity,
I don’t see the life,
I see strain, emptiness,
And faces creased with strife.

I don’t see the day you see,
Each day I see I dread.
Cause every time tomorrow comes,
I know I’m almost dead.
Then I Cry…

Freedom taken
life forsaken
steel bars
painful scars
mental strains
waist chains
concrete walls
collect calls
nothing’s fair
hard to bear
mind games
nick names
count bells
stair wells
masked strangers
constant dangers
jingling keys
trembling knees
lonely hours
faith sours
years wasted
hope tasted
questions why
then I cry...
Pure Lust

I am consumed with lust…
I yearn, I thirst, I hunger.
My mouth waters, my heart races, my palms perspire.
I’m anxious, I’m eager, I’m excited.
My pupils dilate, my lips quiver, my body trembles.
The object of my lust is beautiful, exotic and bountiful.
She tempts, she arouses, she seduces.
She captivates, she inspires, she fulfils.
I’m pursuing her with untamed and never-ending zeal.
Why does she taunt and tease me so?
How can she continue to elude me?
Who is this woman?
I’ve known her all my life.
We once had an intensely intimate and passionate relationship.
I miss her with every fibre of my being.
I want her back.
Will she give in?
Who is this woman?
Her name is Freedom…

If you wish to join or support Bill in his creative endeavors, please write to him at:

Bill Clark
San Quentin State Prison
P.O. Box K-80703
San Quentin, CA 94974

All letters will be greatly appreciated and answered promptly.

Be sure to pop along to THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION: Redemption versus Death at the Old Deptford Cinema before the end of April to witness in full effect the many talents of San Quentin’s death row artists.


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