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spacer.gif   LETTER FROM NORMAN PORTER
Posted by : cj on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - 11:23 AM
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Members' Posting Pool .
Norman PorterI received a letter from JJ. It came in an envelope with the following stamped twice on the back side:

THIS CORRESPONDENCE IS FORWARDED FROM A MASSACHUSETTS CORRECTIONAL INSITUTION. THE CONTENTS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN EVALUATED AND THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SUBSTANCE OR CONTENT OF THE ENCLOSED MATERIAL.

The letter is hand written in ink and JJ needs to work on his penmanship. I am omitting the majority of the letter because it concerns personal matters between the two of us. Here is the part of the letter that I am releasing:

"[Beginning of letter omitted] Change in human beings comes hard C. J. I know 8 of my 65 years had been as a thief and the last 45 to try and make amends for those eight. You wrote about a person that never existed -- my opposition and some state police rolled up my two first crime partners and then my second crime partners and put them altogether and said it was me and then they even added other stuff invented if you will. I do not in any way mean to assuage or [ameliorate] my responsibility for that action of robbery and jail break. I have lived the past 40 not just mouthing words that say I'm sorry but taking action that are the consequences of my words 7 years as assistant chaplain in prison 6 years director of volunteer services at a mental health facility have two certificates for saving lives the governor gave me the pen to sign reform law into being that I had writtten the day care in my church in Chicago and the list goes on and I am hurt but I do not despair I don't know what is going to happen to me. I have started my book [section of letter omitted] C. J. I do not wish to lose the "JJ" part of my life [large section of letter omitted]

To Poets of Chicago 4/12/05 NP

If someone could write a book
as someone did once
"Making Love to a Minor Poet of Chicago"
why not could I write a poem
"Making Love to a Fugitive Poet from Massachusetts"??

On March 21st, a day of spring,
I went to the church office
to see the pastor about spiritual affairs
We unitarians abjure spiritual affairs
preferring instead the regular, ordinary affair

I met instead two Illinois State troopers
who also care little
of other worldly spiritual affairs
They arrested me
on a pure, earthly out-of-state escape warrant.

At that moment, at that hour
JJ Jameson seemed to have gone
to some other worldly death chamber
a self-created personality
that lived a short twenty-year citizen life.

Born full-blown on cobbled Chicago alleys
no time for childhood and stick ball
no time for adolescence and Peggy Westmoreland's tongue
no time for maturity and experience learnt
no time for making friend and loyalty count

Straight into semi-civilized manhood
no identity, no friends, no history
an eight grade drop out
with jailed book learning
twenty-five prison years straight.

From Oscar Wilde:

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there.

(from Ballad of Reading Gaol)


From the scrap heap of my previous life
I patch together a semblance of a some one
from here a name from there a birthday
from my life before: nine truths, one lie
the promises of my life before
washed down with Ballentine Ale.

And so I live and so I write
and rejoice and revel in knowing
I have known the poets of Chicago
the poets of Chicago have known me.
We both owe a debt to Nelson Algren.

--Norman A. Porter, Jr. W35127 2005

(Parts of the poem "To Poets of Chicago" first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. The poem appears here in its entirety with the permission of the author. Content on this page is copyrighted; no part of this page, including quotes from the letter or the republishing of the poem, may be used without explicit permission from the publisher. Please link to this page instead of reposting its contents.)

This page will be reserved for other letters from Norman Porter. If you would like to share a Norman Porter letter here, please photocopy the original letter (or the parts of the letter you wish to share) and mail it to ChicagoPoetry.com. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, only copies of letters written in Porter's own handwriting will be considered; any content posted here claiming to otherwise be from Porter will be deleted.

CLICK HERE to read or to post a comment.


Note: ChicagoPoetry.com has received a letter from Norman Porter, aka JJ Jameson.

 
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