Time for Some Depression-Era Gangster Poetry 


Gather around, my thieving internet children, today we’ll be reading the rotten prosody of undying outlaws.

It’s long been known that 30s crime-spree principessa Bonnie Parker composed poetry, a fact immortalized in the perfect 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. She wrote, for instance, these famous lines: “You’ve read the story of ‘Jesse James’, / Of how he lived and died. / If you’re still in need / Of something to read, / Here’s the story of ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’’ She and Clyde Barrow also went around the country robbing various establishments blind over a 21-month period that culminated in cops killing the pair in Louisiana in 1934.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that a green notebook (not that one, thank you very much) that is soon going up for auction is believed to hold the poetic work of Barrow, too, although even he himself admits to being a pale imitation of Bonnie:

“Bonnie s Just Written a poem / the Story of Bonnie & Clyde. So / I will try my hand at Poetry / With her riding by my side / We donte want to hurt anney one / but we have to Steal to eat. / and if it’s a shoot out to / to live that’s the way it / will have to bee. / We have kidnapped some / people. And tied them to a tree / but not so tight that after we / were gone tha could not get / themselves free. / We are going home tomorrow / to look in on the folks. We will / meet then out near Grape Vine / if the Laws donte get there / first. / Now that’s not as good as / Bonnies. So I guess I / Will call it a flop- / But please God Just one / moore visit before we are / Put on the spot.”

Though the auction house, Heritage Auctions, has not been able to fully authenticate the document, the notebook is going up on the block in April. “This poem and the subsequent one signed by Clyde are redolent of the jargon of ‘gangster-ese’ which Depression-era Americans were inculcated with through the media of films, radio and pulp fiction,” said the Dallas-based auction house. “Both poems are riddled with spelling errors that are characteristic of Clyde.” I can only hope the same is said someday of my blogs.

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