Paintoems- are poems inspired by paintings or drawings, or paintings or drawings, inspired by poems, combined together, as a single work of digital art. Once created, the public has free use rights to these works, as long as the artist or artists are acknowledged.
Paintoems, come out of the prisoner art world. The early 21st century has seen a turnaround regarding the purposes of incarceration. No longer viewed solely as punishment for crimes, but now can encompass rehabilitation.
The strong emphasis on rehabilitation of the incarcerated, derives from the Restorative Justice Movement. A social advocacy movement with the belief, that incarcerated persons didn’t just get there by accident. There were social, political, and economical factors, that may have contributed to them making bad choices.
In some communities, especially those of color, there can be a lack of opportunities, like access to good-paying jobs, and a decent education. These factors can have a devastating effect, on a person’s options. As one longtime resident of South Los Angeles put it, ” the only businesses they allow us to have around here, are liquor stores, and churches.” “Liquor stores to make you sin, the churches to forgive your sins, and the cycle begins the next morning at 6:00, when you bail, ‘Shorty out of jail.'” [Editor’s Note: “Bailing Shorty out of jail,” is an euphemism, to mean “a small/short can of beer, but can mean any kind of liquor, i.e., Shorty. Then freeing Shorty, or bailing Shorty out of jail, by buying his freedom, from the liquor store.”]
The restorative justice movement believes, while incarcerated, let’s provide this person with the opportunity to have a successful re-entry back into society. If Government, while they have these men and women in their custody won’t do it, advocates will, once released. This can include, transitional housing, job training, education, jobs, substance abuse, or domestic abuse, services. In addition to helping restore the whole person back into the community, Restorative Justice advocates, are also active in changing laws. This can require lots of trips to a state capital. Petition drives, to get petition signatures for putting measures on the voting ballot. This includes all the efforts that are required to get a measured passed. Restorative Justice advocates don’t solely help prisoners, but give aide to family members of those incarcerated. Restorative Justice takes a holistic approach to America’s mass incarceration problem. “It really takes on a whole new approach how we see one another,” says one advocate.
Prisoner Artist, and Prisoner Restorative Justice Coordinator, Donald “C-Note” Hooker, created Paintoems, in 2016.
“I had found that prisoner art exibitions weren’t solely about the visual arts. There was always some literary component to it. Be it creative writing, poetry, or a small plays. So the curators who were putting on these exhibits equally felt, having the public hear in their own words, the prisoners voice, greatly enriched their prisoner art exhibitions. Then there are the prisoner publications, which can be newsletters, newspapers, or magazines. They also in their publications want to publish, preferrably, politically inspired drawings, paintings, or poems. So in 2016, I came up with the idea, let’s put them together. Let’s create vignettes of poems, inspired by paintings, or paintings/drawings, inspired by poems, package them together, and give them to the public without ever getting our expressed written permission to do so. So now, a curator can just download off the internet, one of these Paintoems, and enlarge it to whatever size they choose, and use this combination, of painting + poem as part of their exhibit. Publishers, or anyone else, can use these Paintoems however they want. We have one caveat, they can only be used as long as the artist, or artists are acknowledged. When these works are published they always contain the artist name. Often times it’s two different artists, because one has contributed to the visual, the other the literal. As a Prisoner Restorative Justice Coordinator, I get artists together of these two disciplines, to help create these works of art. Prisoner artist are vital to the restorative justice movement. Prison art is an invaluable part of charitable fundraising, for legislative reform, prison reentry programs, and aide to families with a loved one behind bars.”

Editor’s Note: Here’s a link to the world’s first Paintoem.
If you know of any prisoner who would like to have their Paintoems published, or any non-prisoner, we’ll publish them on one of our poetry platforms.
Mprisond Poetz
The Street Poetz
Just inform us if they were created while incarcerated, or free, and send them to:


15 thoughts on “WHAT ARE PAINTOEMS?

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