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This is a true story about how I developed my craft as a poet while incarcerated and how my knack for putting words together grew fonder within my soul as I honed a new skill. 

It began in the Los Angeles County Jail in the year 2000. I was 21 years old, young and depressed, and in a lot of trouble with a criminal case for assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. I was facing nine years in the California penal system. It was safe to say I had time on my hands, and I had sense enough to know that I needed to do something constructive to occupy myself. 

One day, a fellow inmate acquaintance of mine asked if I could write a poem for his wife for Valentine’s Day. He had purchased a romantic love card from the canteen and wanted some original words to put on the card. I gave him my word that I would try my best to put a few lines together for him. 

That night I stayed up contemplating what to compose. How I was going to express emotional thoughts about someone else’s woman, and what method of creativity I was going to use? I can’t remember the whole poem word for word but I can recall a line or two. I wrote: 

By design, you are Incredible, your size and physique, 
Stunning from head to feet, 
Reclining on Louis Vuitton pillows and Victoria Secret satin sheets.
 

To say the least, the brother was happy with the piece of writing, and he showed his gratitude by gifting me food and cosmetics from the inmate canteen. 

Months later, I took a plea bargain deal for nine years in a California prison. I made up my mind that one of the things I wanted to do to better myself was to work on my craft as a poet. I knew if I wrote constantly, year in and year out, my skill would go from mediocre to exceptional, from simple to intricate. 

I learned many life lessons along the way. One of the lessons was that our greatest resource as human beings was our mental and spiritual estates. The only requirement for any positive results was constant effort and focus of time and energy. 

During the process of perfecting my goal, I came to know myself and began to see myself in a different light. Once you have built your skill to a certain level, you have to remember that your talent has merit and worth. 

To take that to the next step, you must believe in yourself and never allow yourself to be forgetful. That’s where I fell apart. After I had reached a certain level of growth in my poetry and personal achievements, I became complacent and took my vision for granted. 

Twenty years later, after many vicissitudes of life’s errors and foolish decisions, I finally understand you can have knowledge and talent, but if your level of maturity doesn’t coincide with that knowledge and talent, you won’t be able to apply what you profess to know. 

My ultimate goal has been to build my style of poetry to a masterpiece of written works. My dream as a poet is to reach a pinnacle of literary worth, captivating anyone that reads my manuscripts and to be able to persuade those with power to publish my poetry and have my material nominated for prestigious awards. 

All these thoughts stem from me, an incarcerated individual sitting in jail imagining a better life for myself, wanting to be the best poet I can be, putting my mind to work and pen to paper. 

Writing lyrics in imprisonment has taught me many things. It gave me an outlet that served as a therapeutic agency, it increased my self-esteem and boosted my morale. Most of all, it gave me the opportunity to dream big and want better for myself. 

It’s amazing how an individual can learn many vital principles about life by remaining dedicated to one trade. Life is truly what you make it. 

In Essence

In essence I’ll never quit or break my stride, 
Until the flood gates open and resistance is futility denied,
The powers that be will swallow their pride and brace for impact,
Watching as the tide begins to rise and walls of opposition collapse.
It’s a new day, in fact, jewels synonymous with diamonds are considered precious,
Unprecedented pearls in a form of a message,
In essence, without question, I will forever strive, 
Until dreams of the past are realized in the present,
Until prophecies, at last, are relevant,
Enlightened words strengthened by nerve and good sense. 
Once it began to emerge there is not an urge able to circumvent,
Not an obstacle compatible of harm, 
Clouds are gray and the sky is disarmed,
All there is to do is pray as the storm becomes aggressive,
Overflowing with fierce rain of various projection,
In essence overcoming pain is its sole objective,
In essence with sheer perfection,
In essence. 

Magnificent Beauty

This magnificent beauty was once hidden in the earth, 
Dismissed as not having worth capable of success,
So it went about its search settling for less,
“Stumbling to and fro,”
Until one day while on a quest it discovered what it didn’t know,
A glow synchronized with the sun, 
The audacity and talent to grow and become, 
Underestimated though elevation is inevitable,
Dedicated to a pinnacle that’s incredible,
Now exceptional without the opposition’s approval,
This magnificent beauty once thought of as not suitable,
Can you believe that it was counted out,
Shunned by one who throws doubt,
Until without a doubt it began to outshine, 
Causing even its adversaries to recognize its brilliance defined,
Its uniqueness in time spoke for itself,
Validated by the most High and no one else,
This magnificent beauty. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Kenny R. Jacobs

Kenny R. “Kool the Poet” Jacobs is a Black writer and poet incarcerated in California State Prison - Los Angeles County. His goal is to become a self-made entrepreneur and published poet.