Themes of crime and violence in poetry have been around for about as long as poets have been putting paper to pen. Robert Browning wrote "The Ring and the Book," a murder novel in verse; T.S. Eliot's "Sweeney Agonistes" is about the murder of a young woman, while his "Murder in the Cathedral" is a verse drama that portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral; and Carl Sandburg's "Killers" is about how war hardens men who learn to distance themselves from their acts of violence.
Writer/educator/editor Gerald So has combined his love of crime fiction and poetry into the website The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, which features a new crime-themed poem each week. An assortment of poems featured on the site were also gathered into anthologies, including the latest, The Lineup 4, edited by Gerald, Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez, and R. Narvaez. In celebration of National Poetry Month in the U.S., Gerald is sponsoring the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour as a way to promote poetry in general and crime poetry on the 5-2 blog in particular.
As an added bonus, all April revenue from 5-2 and Lineup books and merchandise at the 5-2 Shop at CafePress.com will also be donated to the nonprofit Academy of American Poets, to support poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. You can also participate by Tweeting comments and links to your favorite 5-2 poems, tagging them #30OfThe52.
Here's one of the featured poems from the 5-2, in fact the very first poem that was posted back in 2011. It's titled "Smack" and is by Nancy Scott, managing editor of the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey, and the author of two books of poetry.
by Nancy Scott
Massive head trauma, internal injuries.
The child won't make it to morning.
The mother and the grandmother sit
in the waiting area.
They haven't been told yet.
The boyfriend, the babysitter, denies
he was high on smack, insists the child
was asleep in the playpen,
when he ran to the deli to buy cigarettes.
He can't explain how the toddler
got hit by a car on the highway
seven blocks from the apartment.
Here's Nancy reading her poem:
Be sure and stop by the 5-2 to read and listen to the other close to 100 poems on the website, and if you're interested in submitting your own, send along your unpublished crime-related poem of 60 lines or fewer in any form or style. To follow Crime Poetry Weekly on Twitter, check out @poemsoncrime.