In Prison

By Jean Valentine b. 1934 Jean Valentine
In prison
without being accused

or reach your family
or have a family            You have

heart trouble


(we lost the baby)
no meds

no one
no window

black water
nail-scratched walls

your pure face turned away

who the earth was for.

Jean Valentine, “In Prison,” from The New Yorker (May 27, 2007). Used by permission of the author.

Source: The New Yorker (Unpublished Collection, 2007)

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Poet Jean Valentine b. 1934

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

 Jean  Valentine


A longtime resident of New York City, Jean Valentine was named the State Poet of New York in 2008. Her first book of poems, Dream Barker and Other Poems, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1965. Subsequent collections of poems include The River at Wolf (1992), Little Boat (2007), and Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, which won the National Book Award in 2004.

Her lyric poems delve into dream . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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