Poets, Prison Writing, and Pantoums

Poets feel deeply, oftentimes too deeply. Sometimes they’re overwhelmed by their feelings.

Poets are incurable Romantics. They love Love. They’re always on a quest to find Love.

Poets are human, deeply human, as human as can be, with all the human frailties.

I met the poet Rachel Wetzsteon through my work with PEN America’s Prison Writing Program (PWP). We both sat on the PWP Poetry Sub-Committee, which judges PEN’s annual Prison Writing Awards, poetry being one of the categories.

It was Rachel who encouraged me to flirt with forms: sonnets, villanelles, and pantoums – oh my!

I quickly took to the pantoum, a Malay form, perfect for elegies. My next and completed book of poetry, The Black Blood of Poetry, the title poem, which I’m shopping around, is anchored by a pantoum.

Rachel died at 42.

Found dead at her home in Manhattan.

Methinks it was the heaviness of life,

Of love lost that’s been labored over.

Clear-eyed with a mordant wit

Couldn’t protect her from depression.

Love is a heavy thing.

It weighs some down,

Like an anchor around an ankle,

Dragging one to the depths.


Rachel Wetzsteon

(Nov. 1967 – Dec. 2009)


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on Amazon.com.
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2 Responses to Poets, Prison Writing, and Pantoums

  1. Mark Chapman says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a creative soul! You make us feel the depression that took Rachel. Although I did not know her, your pantoum brings her life and work to those of us who are now inspired to read her work. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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