A Life Behind and Beyond Bars
AT NiGHT I FLY is show by producer Matthew Schneeman and incarcerated poet Spoon Jackson.
Equal parts Ear Hustle, Radiolab, and Ten Things that Scare Me AT NiGHT I FLY dives inside and outside of Solano State prison to inspire awe through interviews, poetry, and field pieces.
Spoon Jackson grew up off of Route-66 in the Mojave desert in Barstow, CA. When he was just nineteen he was given a life sentence for murder, that was forty-two years ago. In the intervening years Spoon has become a poet, stared in Waiting for Godot, publishing poetry and a memoir, collaborated with Ani DiFranco, and cultivated friends and supporters like Samuel Beckett, Gloria Steinem, and Bill Erwin. He’s still that quiet boy from the desert. He has spent a lifetime expanding his heart in a place he’ll never call home. Reaching out through hot dusty concrete walls to a world to share his work with he has cultivated a remarkable life.
I, Matthew Schneeman, am an audio journalist. White, not incarcerated, twenty-five years Spoon’s junior, and from Minnesota, the opposite of the desert, Spoon and I don’t, on the surface, look like a natural match. But, ‘We both got that awe, that wonder…’ Spoon once told me, and it comes through in the show. Spoon was a source for a smaller story but when I got to know him he became real in a beautiful way and a story emerged. What made him real was when he told me about his love for birds, Star Trek, when he did transcendental meditation with Carlos Santana, or when he learned that his poem Real ended up in the script for the movie Ali, un attributed. Gasp! It’s a strange story.
Solving the riddle How to have a full life in prison? is what this show is about.
Episode One: FAT KiNG
This first episode is about growing up.
Instead of hitting you over the head with Spoons famous collaborations (Ani DiFranco, Jamie Foxx…) we thought it’d be better to set the scene with where Spoon comes from: Barstow CA, the desert.
Spoon reads a poem about a pig and maggots, talks about growing up, I talk to my parents about how I didn’t go to prison, and Spoon ends with a wonderful poem about his mom and deer that came to dinner.
Find the rest on the podcast feed
SPOON AND THE ViRUS
NOTE: After this piece was originally published Spoon finally got the virus. He was hospitalized and we, myself and his support team, were cut off from him for about two weeks. He has recovered. At a later date we’ll tell that story. – matthew schneeman, 03/15/2021.
Right after we released the podcast to our backers and supporters in the prison reform/prison arts community the coronavirus swept the nation. Spoon, at first, was skeptic: many of us were, but as the infections and death counts rose Spoon traded in his skepticism for activism.
Prison, especially a level two prison like Solano, is a dangerous place to be for any contagious virus; even worse if the people in those prisons vulnerable. Poor healthcare offered in prison, a restricted and unhealthy diet which causes a startling levels of
diabetes, and an aging prison population thanks for the 1994 crime bill that set mandatory life sentences all team up to put people, like Spoon, at an increased risk.
Spoon first spoke out in print. He wrote an article for a Swedish magazine called Global Oxygen. Unfortunately, his draft was lost in the mail, which he wasn’t notified of until much later. The second time he spoke out was on the NPR show Reveal. He and other host of the podcast Uncuffed voice their concerns with their precarious position.
I collected phone conversations with Spoon from before and into the pandemic and produced a piece that marks Spoon’s journey from skeptic to advocate.
iN LOVE iN PRiSON
This mini episode starts with Spoon talking about all the famous people he’s met and worked with: Samuel Beckett, John Goodman, Gloria Steinem. After we get all that name dropping out of the way we dive into the meat of the episode. Relationships behind bars.
Spoon tells us about his marriages and relationships he’s had while in prison. The are obvious physical barriers and difficulties involved, but also the emotional weight
Spoon, and the people he’s been with, have had to carry. I can say, just a friend and colleague, it’s difficult having a relationship with someone locked up. Unfortunately, with over two-million people locked up right now, my experience isn’t unique.
At Night I Fly: The Documentary
Before Spoon and I teamed up, much before almost ten years, Spoon was featured in a documentary named after the same poem out podcast is named after, At Night I Fly. Michel Wenzer, the Swedish director of the film, profiles multiple members of an arts program in New Folsom Prison, a prison Spoon was housed previous to Solono.
As described on the film’s website “This intimate documentary shows prisoners, most serving a life sentence, who refuse such closure and instead work to uncover and express themselves. Their primary tool is making art and the film takes us to New Folsom’s Arts in Corrections’ room, to prison poetry readings, gospel choirs, blues guitar on the yard, and to many more scenes of creation. ”