Tomas Keen is a writer from Washington State, focusing on issues of social justice and legal reform. He's a 2023 PEN America Prison Writing Award winner, and has published essays in the The Economist 1843 magazine, Inquest, Open Campus, and elsewhere. Since 2010 he's been serving a 20-year prison term.
In what ways does nature inspire or inform your work?
Seated at my cell window, I watch birds in acrobatics as they zip around the greenery planted in front of the prison unit. They embody nature’s default state of freedom. And it’s this freedom–of movement, from oppression–that inspires my work.
What does it mean to you to be part of a thriving ecosystem?
For me, being part of a thriving ecosystem means actively considering the affects of my actions on others and on the planet. It means more than using paper straws and shutting off the sink while shaving–although arguably those are important. But at its core, it means joining with others to create a world inhabited by less harm and more happiness, and then taking steps to ensure that world stays for the people who come after us.