Introducing our 2017 Words Unlocked final Reviewing Artists!

Jimmy Santiago Baca


Born in New Mexico of Indio-Mexican descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison that he began to turn his life around: he learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious passion for poetry. ​During a fateful conflict with another inmate, Jimmy was shaken by the voices of Neruda and Lorca, and made a choice that would alter his destiny. Instead of becoming a hardened criminal, he emerged from prison a writer. Baca sent three of his poems to Denise Levertov, the poetry editor of Mother Jones. ​The poems were published and became part of IMMIGRANTS IN OUR OWN LAND, published in 1979, the year he was released from prison. He earned his GED later that same year. He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award and for his memoir "A Place to Stand" the prestigious International Award. In 2006 he won the Cornelius P. Turner Award. The national award recognizes one GED graduate a year who has made outstanding contributions to society in education, justice, health, public service and social welfare. Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. He has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country. 

Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa

Click the film icon below to hear from FreeQuency in the Words Unlocked 2017 Kickoff Video!


Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa is a 25-year-old Black, Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer, Womyn poet in New Orleans, LA. Ranked 3rd and 8th at the 2015 & 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam, FreeQuency is an Anti-Racist and Reproductive Justice organizer who has spent most of her life living and writing at the intersection of arts, education and activism. In New Orleans, she organizes & advocates with BYP100-NOLA and Women With A Vision, does youth work & poetry with the New Orleans Youth Open Mic and Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO) and is an African Culture/Fashion Blogger with Noirlinians. View her work at &

R. Dwayne





Reginald Dwayne Betts was sixteen years old and an honors student at Suitland High School, when he and a friend carjacked a man who had fallen asleep in his car. He was charged as an adult and spent more than eight years in prison, where he completed high school and began reading and writing poetry. Reginald Dwayne Betts is author of the memoir A Question of Freedom (Avery, 2009) and the poetry collection Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010). He is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow and 2011 Radcliffe Fellow. Mr. Betts is currently a student at Yale Law School.

Click the icon to hear Dwayne read a poem he wrote for his sons!

Victoria (Tory) Sammartino is a poet and youth development professional who grew up in the Bronx, received a high quality public education, and participated in numerous arts and youth leadership programs as a teenager.  At the age of 22, she founded Voices UnBroken, an organization that makes poetry workshops accessible to youth (ages 12-24) in the juvenile and adult justice systems, and served as Executive Director from 2000-2015.  She began her career as an educator at the school for girls on Rikers Island and has worked extensively with young people in juvenile justice facilities; and with women and girls on Rikers Island, in New York State prisons, and upon discharge/release. She holds a BA in Community Arts from Bennington College and a Certificate from Georgetown University's Center for Juvenile Justice Reform. Tory was named one of 25 Influential Bronx Women by the Bronx Times. 

Click the film icon to get some writing inspiration from Tory!

Josh Lefkowitz

Amy Woolard

Josh Lefkowitz is a graduate from the University of Michigan, where he received the Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry. His poems and essays have been published widely online and in print, and he has recorded work for NPR's All Things Considered and BBC's Americana. He won the 2013 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the 2014 Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize, and won First Prize in the international 2016 Singapore Poetry Contest. Additionally, he has performed a pair of autobiographical full-length plays in theaters and spaces across the country.

Amy Woolard is a writer and public policy attorney working on foster care, juvenile justice, poverty, public benefits, and youth homelessness issues in Virginia. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Virginia School of Law. As a public policy attorney, Amy has extensive experience in administrative and legislative advocacy, policy research and writing, and coalition-building. Prior to this role, she worked as a legal aid attorney representing youth in foster care and youth experiencing homelessness with special education, school discipline and enrollment issues. As a writer, her poems have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Fence, Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, and Best New Poets 2013 and 2015, among others, and have been awarded poetry prizes by Indiana Review and Puerto del Sol. She was also awarded a 2016 residency fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. You can find Amy on her website, Shift+7. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Click the  film icon to get some writing inspiration from Josh!

Click the film icon to get some writing inspiration from Amy!

Victoria Sammartino

Talib Robinson

A note from Talib!


I am 19 years old. I participated in the Words Unlocked poetry contest in 2015 while I was at Eckerd Youth Program and my poem, "Yes I Can," was published in the 2015 Words Unlocked Anthology. I have recently obtained my Medical Assistant Certification through the Latin American Youth Center. I grew up Philadelphia and moved to Florida when I was 13 years old. I now live in Washington, DC. I am a part-time geek: my hobbies are basketball, football, poetry, and Magic: The Gathering. My favorite poem is “High School Training Ground,” by Malcolm London.

To read Talib’s poem featured in the Words Unlocked 2015 Anthology, click the anthology cover image to the right and advance to page 44.


Meet our newest reviewing artists for Words Unlocked 2017!

Omar Musa

2016 Reviewing Artist

Jeremiah Ramirez

Omar Musa

Noah Schultz

To read Jeremiah's poem, "Prisoner of Principles," as featured in the Words Unlocked 2015 Anthology, click the anthology cover image to the right and advance to page 67.

Noah Schultz is a spoken word poet, writer and social innovator from Portland Oregon. Upon being incarcerated at the age of 17, Noah fell in love with education and personal development. In 2015 he received his B.S. in Human Development & Family Sciences as well as his B.S. in Sustainability. He is most passionate about providing marginalized populations with opportunity for advancement, both socially and environmentally.     

Read Noah's winning poem, "Out of Rubble," featured in the Words Unlocked 2015 Anthology! Click the anthology cover image to the left and advance to page 17.

Click the film icon to get some inspiration from Noah!