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The Prisoners Paperback – February 24, 2014
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About the Author
Ace Boggess was locked up for five years in the West Virginia prison system. During that time, he wrote the poems collected here and published most of them. Prior to his incarceration, he earned his B.A. from Marshall University and his J.D. from West Virginia University. He has been awarded a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, and his poems have appeared in such journals as Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review and The Florida Review. His first collection, The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled, appeared in 2003. He currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you are looking for poetry that is crafted with skill, elegance, and impact, Ace Boggess' work is what you've been looking for. This is special stuff that you'll want to re-read, taking layers off to expose new meaning and new craft.
He's a "poet's poet" - the technique is subtle, the structure is elegantly integrated, but it is always there. I recommend it unreservedly.
But then I finally started reading, and before long I was laughing out loud. Then I felt slightly guilty, because everyone knows you're not supposed to laugh while reading a book of poems about prison. But some of the poems were just so funny that I realized Boggess meant for me to laugh, and I started to let my guard down a little bit. Eventually the more serious poems did start coming, but by then my initial apprehension was over, and I was able to accept them in the spirit in which they were intended.
The book is divided into three sections. The first, "Crime and Punishment," is an introduction to prison life. The second, "Notes from the Underground," is composed entirely of Boggess' signature question poems, in which he answers questions that he comes across in books or conversation. In this section, the main subject is guilt, both general and specific. The third section is called "The Idiot." The theme in this section is loss and missed opportunity, as Boggess begins to think again about the outside world and what may or may not be waiting there for him when he returns.
It's hard for me to pull out quotes from these poems, because Boggess deals in extended metaphors, and quoting a few lines out of context wouldn't show you how powerful they are in context. Still, there are a lot of passages I really loved. Here's a self-portrait from the end of "Doing Time": "I am a clock that always/ points ahead to tomorrow/ while my time &/ time again pass on/ like the fading of hymns/ into memory." Of "Freedom," he writes: "It tastes, too,/ like charred bacon,/ cherries & molasses: a man/ would certainly swallow it whole/ if he knew its bottle/ had a bottom after all."
In short, this is a wonderful collection, whether you just want to read some good poetry or are looking for something literary on the subject of prison life.
The poets speaks of the need to apologize as well as the many losses he experienced. He paints a picture of loss, regret, blame, guilt, and more. The emotions recounted transend inprisonment; they are universal.
Boggess managed to find humor in some of the situtations his prison experiences presented while convincing us we don't want to go there.
I learned a new word: blackacre (or black acre).