Kosal Khiev's journey from prison to poetry By: Sacha Singh

Our thoughts on Kosal

Kosal Khiev came to the UWC East Campus to discuss his journey from prison to poetry. He explained to us that when “You come to talk to yourself” and are “Forced to confront yourself,” You figure out who you really are, and what your true passions are. He was able to do this when he got incarcerated. When the students of UWC met Kosal, he came across as such a positive person and the students’ opinion of Kosal was not clouded by their knowledge of his past mistakes. During his performance, we were able to witness his passion towards poetry, and how far he’s come by pursuing it. After this talk, we realised that all mistakes can be erased despite how major the mistake is. We realised the huge improvement he had made in his life, and it proved to us that anything is possible. To come back from a negative setback in his past, showed us that we can do the same with the mistake in our lives.

Kosal Khiev was born in a Thai Refugee Camp in the United States, into a frightful lifestyle, where he had to live in poverty with his single mother and six siblings. Perhaps this may have affected the regretful decisions he made later on in his life as he wasn’t able to experience the carefree childhood which the majority of us children do. During his teen years, the lack of attention from the people around him affected him and may have impacted his decision of joining a gang. This may also have been why he was hasty with his decisions even if it wasn’t the right thing to do. After his life turned around when he came to talk to us, he was able to convey to us that anything is possible. He made it clear that he wasn’t ashamed of his past, and was proud of his comeback. Being born into such a tough situation, which led to wrong choices, but still he was able to turn it around and become the man he aspired to be.

Kosal’s journey of his comeback

After being locked up, he was able to discover himself and his way of figuring out his past, present and future was to write everything out. He discovered the power of poetry which can “change a person's perspective, outlook, even the content of a soul.” When Kosal was only sixteen years old, he was part of a gun shoot-out where two people got shot and injured, therefore he was sentenced to a fourteen year jail term due to attempted murder. As a teenager, he was associated with wrong company and over the years, he started making wrong decisions. Someone once told him “it only takes a few seconds to make a mistake, but it takes a lifetime to fix it,” and that’s what he’s doing now, fixing his mistakes. He’s doing this with the help of poetry which allows him to express himself in many different ways. After he turned his life around, and got involved with poetry, it changed his life for the better, and he was invited to perform in the London Olympics 2012. It was such an amazing highlight in his life and Kosal says he cried when he found out. Kosal believed that he was able to change his life for the better after his incarceration, and it was evident now. He wasn’t able to choose the childhood he was born into, but he was able to choose the right decisions he made thereafter.


Cheung, Helier. "Kosal Khiev's Journey from Prison to Poetry." BBC News. BBC, 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

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