Jean Valentine (Photo by Max Greenstreet)

Jean Valentine (Photo by Max Greenstreet)

 

In Prison

 

In prison
without being accused

 

or reach your family
or have a family            You have

 

conscience
heart trouble

 

asthma
manic-depressive

 

(we lost the baby)
no meds

 

no one
no window

 

black water
nail-scratched walls

 

your pure face turned away
embarrassed

 

you
who the earth was for.

 

 

 

 

About Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, earned her B.A. from Radcliffe College, and has lived most of her life in New York City. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her eleventh book of poetry is Break the Glass, just out from Copper Canyon PressDoor in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965 – 2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry.

Valentine was the State Poet of New York for two years, starting in the spring of 2008. She received the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, a $100,000 prize which recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Valentine has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the NEA, The Bunting Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation, The New York Council for the Arts, and The New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as the Maurice English Prize, the Teasdale Poetry Prize, and The Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize in 2000. She has also been awarded multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony.
Valentine has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Graduate Writing Program of New York University, Columbia University, and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

Poet Adrienne Rich said, “Looking into a Jean Valentine poem is like looking into a lake: you can see your own outline, and the shapes of the upper world, reflected among rocks, underwater life, glint of lost bottles, drifted leaves. The known and familiar become one with the mysterious and half-wild, at the place where consciousness and the subliminal meet.This is a poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meanings we couldn’t approach in any other way.”

For more information about Jean Valentine and her work, please visit her website.

If you enjoyed “In Prison” please share this poem on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can read the entire Sunday Poem series here.

Would you like the Sunday Poem delivered to your email box each week? Subscribe to Gwarlingo by email. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook or share a “like” on the Gwarlingo Facebook page.

Looking for an interesting book for yourself or your students? Check out the new Gwarlingo Store–a hand-picked selection of some of my favorite poetry and art books. All of your purchases directly support this site.

 

“In Prison” © Jean Valentine. This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker and was reprinted with permission by the author and Copper Canyon Press. “In Prison” appears in Valentine’s most recent collection Break the Glass.