Friday, April 29, 2011

Killer Poet

I'm including some links about one Norman Porter, a down-on-his-luck Yankee from Woburn, Mass. who allegedly murdered a Saugus clothing store clerk in 1960, and a Cambridge jail attendant in 1961. He spent quite some time in prison after that, finally escaping from Walpole in 1985 and fleeing to Chicago. He then spent two decades in the Windy City, battling demon rum, doing odd jobs, living on the streets - and eventually gathering a bit of wind himself. He became a poet and social activist, getting involved with his local Unitarian church and becoming something of a grassroots litterateur. Ironically, the taste of renown he got from his poetry ended up getting him caught. Living under the name J.J. Jameson, he was named "Poet of the Month" by a Chicago poetry website in March 2005. He gave "innumerable readings", appeared as a guest on local radio and cable TV shows, and even had his picture and his bogus bio unleashed on the internet. He also retained something of the bad boy, getting himself arrested a few times in his adopted city. His fingerprints as one "Jacob A. Jameson" from a Chicago arrest in 1993 sat in the same database with those of his former self, Norman Porter, for years before anyone noticed. Twelve years had elapsed before the FBI made the connection, by which time he'd already become somewhat famous. The FBI were able to find him through "the simple act of entering his name into an online search engine", and closing in on him after that was easy. No longer a criminal, Porter is a published poet with at least one book under his belt, but he was 65 in 2005 and - so far as I know - has been in jail ever since. Too bad, as it appears he was quite the escape artist in his younger days, having made "about 18" jail breaks before he buckled down for his first long stay, earning a GED and the equivalent of an English degree from Boston University while in the joint. (Even Francois Villon would need to rack up those Creative Writing credits, I guess, before he started putting pen to parchment nowadays.)

Review of documentary "Killer Poet" (Boston Globe)
Article from Boston Globe
Hiding Between The Lines (Chicago Magazine)

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