Deta Galloway - First Prison Letter, 1985

Poet Deta Galloway wrote this letter to Knight on June 26, 1985, as the first in a series of prison letters while Knight incarcerated. Galloway and Knight were friends through poetry, and through their shared struggle and lives of heartache and rejection.

Galloway’s letters serve as a reminder of the broader context of Knight’s life in prison and the kind of support and criticism he received from others. 

This first letter offers a nuanced insight to Knight’s life. Galloway begs Knight to stay healthy, get his life together, and continue to create. Though Galloway recognizes Knight and his words as a brilliant gift to the world, the letter also reveals Knight the “Black junkie,” as he sometimes referred to himself. Galloway documents the impact of his struggles with addiction and violence on both himself and his loved ones. She writes as a witness to someone whose “compellances” and demons of trauma were so strong he sometimes could not avoid or navigate them. 

Her letters stand out to me because not only are they raw and honest, but almost every line she wrote in these casual letters sounds like poetry. One of my favorite quotes from this letter is "You best not mess up the dance. Sing the blues. Don't kill the blues."

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