Visiting Days: Poems

by Gretchen Primack


Collection of persona poems set in a maximum-security men's prison by Gretchen Primack.

"Enter Gretchen Primack, a poet, writer and advocate who dismisses the stereotype and is able to see the humanity in the people that touched her life on the inside. The conversation often arises within advocacy debate as to who has the license to contribute to this conversation, especially through art and creative expression. Visiting Days is a prime example of how to get it right. This is a brave and necessary collection of poems that contribute to the overall debate around the criminal justice system, and more specifically the prison industrial complex, with all its complexities.

In the age of cultural correctness, sometimes to a fault (a box will always be a box no matter how it is reshaped for the sake of a feelgood), we want to challenge those who step outside of their comfort zone to totally immerse themselves in that which they write about. Gretchen has done this with great care and detail. She is a poet who takes the task of poeting seriously: art for the sake of art. Even before you read the following pages, know that people from the inside have laid eyes on this manuscript, and each one was awed that someone not of their world took the time to understand their plight in a way that rendered them human." --from the Introduction by Randall Horton, Ph.D.


"Much like Marvin Gaye did in music, Gretchen Primack is committed to the task of telling the world “What’s Going On” in poetry. She has taught in prisons, the reciprocal lessons of which she has taken on the mask to share. In writing about the invisible ones, the discarded ones, the mass incarcerated skeleton in America’s closet, Primack unapologetically affirms the fact of their existence--their routinely cruel, unusual punishments, and their humanity. This courageous work, authentic in the feel of its persona poems, masterful in its balance of poetic impressionism and realism, will “make you wanna holler / throw up both [your] hands." —Truth Thomas

"Like with Kind, her exquisitely crafted poetic argument for moral veganism, Gretchen Primack’s incredible empathy for the unconscionably caged emerges with her love for humanity on the elegantly rendered pages of Visiting Days. Her firsthand experiences with the incarcerated have resulted in characters so vivid and corporeal, I would have presumed the poems were biographical sketches of living, breathing human beings had it not been for the note clarifying that the volume is a work of fiction. Given the shameful reality that the U.S. reigns supreme as the nation imprisoning more of its people than any other, Visiting Days is vital—a volume that should be required reading for all." —Kia Corthron

"American prisons destroy people. They destroy those who live in them, and those who live outside them. The poems in Gretchen Primack's Visiting Days raise the voices of those who live within them and America needs to hear these voices. These poems contemplate, weep, wonder, and command. These poems bear names like Ismail, Jacob, and Deneice. They rise up from places like East Wing, The Box, and The Yard. Most importantly, these poems ring with empathy, urging us to see these people, as people. Where prisons destroy, these poems ignite the fire that poetry tends: the burn that makes us human." —Joseph Ross

About the Author: 


Gretchen Primack is a poet and educator living in New York's Hudson Valley. She has taught and/or administrated with prison education programs (mostly college) for ten years.

She's the author of three poetry collections, Visiting Days (Willow Books), Kind (Post Traumatic Press), and Doris' Red Spaces (Mayapple Press), and a chapbook, The Slow Creaking of Planets (Finishing Line 2007). She co-wrote The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals with Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary co-founder Jenny Brown (Penguin Avery 2012).

Her poetry publication credits include The Paris ReviewPrairie SchoonerPloughsharesFIELDPoet LoreThe Massachusetts ReviewThe Antioch ReviewNew Orleans ReviewRhinoTampa Review, and many others, and her work has been chosen for several anthologies, including Best New Poets 2006. Her poem "You Are a Prince," published in Ploughshares, was featured on

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