Josh Jerome, Philip Tang, Kristina Katz
AP Literature, Malden High School, MA
20 Feb. 2011
McDonough, Jill. Habeas Corpus. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2008.
This is the first and only full length book so far by Jill McDonough. It is a collection of her poetic works which are about the processes and issues behind executions that have occurred throughout history. Each piece of work has a specific date and person as the title. These are the dates and persons involved in the executions.
---. “Accident, Mass. Ave.” The Threepenny Review. Spring 2008. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.
This poem is about an accident that McDonough felt was necessary to address and write about. It is one of the poems where her style is more narrative. She uses a lot of colloquial and profane language to describe the event. The reason this poem works so well is because it directly reflects the Bostonian attitude towards accidents, especially being on a main road.
---. “Breasts Like Martinis.” Slate Magazine. 23 Oct. 2007. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.
This is one of McDonough’s more recent poems. This poem does not relate to her Habeas Corpus work, but it does reflect her feminist views. The title, itself, represents this idea that females have become a domestic product of society.
---. “Cary Grant.” The Cortland Review: Issue 40. August 2008. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.
This poem describes this Hollywood and Broadway star, Cary Grant. He was the type of man everyone wanted to have or wanted to be. In this poem, McDonough tries to show his combination of virility, sexuality and the aura and being of a gentleman.
---. “On Being Asked, What is poetry?” Read Write Poem. October 2009. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.
This poem is part of a series for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. The festival contestants were asked to answer this question: “What is poetry?” This poem was McDonough’s first response to the question.
---. “Pikadon.” Ploughshares. Winter 2003. Biography Resource Center. MHS Library. Malden, MA. 15 Jan. 2011.
Because McDonough traveled a numerous amount of times, she had to take her work with her. This poem is about her experiences in an area in Japan. Again, she uses this style that is more like a story than a poem.
“Jill McDonough.” National Endowment for the Arts. Web. 9 January 2011
This is a short biography depicting the events surrounding the drafting of Jill McDonough’s book Habeas Corpus, in terms of when and how she began the writing of her book, and what she did with the finished manuscript.
From this brief biography, provided in the form of the author’s statements (Jill McDonough), it is revealed that she is an “adjunct professor in the Boston area” who teaches at Universities and prisons (par.1 line 1). It is also revealed that she took an entire semester off from her teaching in order to work on her only published book, Habeas Corpus (par.1 line 4). McDonough goes on to elicit how she had “been working for five years” on the book, which is a compilation of sonnets dealing with a specific execution that took place at some point in American history.(par .2 lines 1-2). McDonough did most of research at the library, while working on her book during her free time. (par.2 lines 2-3). Her motivation for drafting the book came in the form of a fellowship that she learned of, and upon completion of Habeas Corpus, she proceeded to send it to publishers and first book contests (par. 2 line 5-6).
Though the biography does not give us much insight about the personal life of the author other than the fact that she is a college professor, it does provide us with some great information surrounding the lengths she went to in order to complete her manuscript. It also adds to the idea that the death penalty is a subject she feels strongly about, seeing as she dedicated an entire book to the subject, in addition to the fact that she teaches at prisons.
“Jill McDonough: Long Biographical Note.” Salt Publishing. Web. 10 January 2011.
From the biography found on the above link, we are made aware of Jill McDonough’s various residencies, achievements, and her current whereabouts and projects.
The long biographical note begins by informing us that Jill McDonough was born in 1972, in the city of Hartford Connecticut ( par.1 line 1). It goes on to reveal that “she has lived in North Carolina, Maine, and Japan, as well as San Francisco, Boston, and New York” (par.1 lines 1-2). McDonough received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stamford University after attending the University of North Carolina. From there, she went on to Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, where she acquired a Master’s degree in Creative Writing, Poetry (par. 1 lines 3-5). McDonough went on to be “a long term teacher” through Boston University’s Prison Education Program (par. 1 line 6-8). It is also important to note that Jill McDonough has had her poetry published in various Magazines such as The The Threepenny Review, The New Republic, and Slate (par.1 lines 9-10). Some of her achievements include “fellowships from the National Endowment of Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers” (par.1 line 11-13). At this point in time, McDonough was a “Stegner Fellow at Stanford University” (par.1 lines 13-14).
accordance with her various achievements and degrees, it is also
important to note McDonough’s humanitarian efforts through the teaching
of prisoners since 1999.
McDonough, Jill. "A Natural History of My Marriage." The Owls. 12 Sept. 2009. Web. 07 Feb. 2011.
This source are accounts from McDonough herself about her marriage to Ms. Josey Packard.
starts off by talking about how she first met Packard and how it kicked
off right away. She describes their smallest conversations and how they
had organized their dream, indian-inspired wedding. McDonough also
shares some of the hardest times during the first few months of marriage
and how many lawyers they swept through until they found the perfect
one to get them all the rights and priveleges they deserved. McDonough
also goes really in-depth about the little things that Packard does that
keeps her on her toes and coming back for more. She describes the likes
and dislikes that they both share about each other and how it somehow
works to keep them together and happy.
Poetics: Reviews and Interviews
Clegg, John. "Habeas Corpus by Jill McDonough." Rev. of Jill McDonough's Habeas Corpus. Web blog post. Echo from the Canyon. 27 July 2009. Web. 05 Jan. 2011.
This is a review of Habeas Corpus and how and why McDonough’s choices produced this favorable piece of literature.
Capital punishment is a web of different stories that is one of the better subjects that can be made into poetry. Clegg thinks that McDonough’s work with capital punishment in Habeas Corpus is a great source of materials to think with and think about. The reason her work is so thoroughly thought out and well written is because she does not give only one point of view of the event in the poem, but point of views of all the individuals involved in each event. It works so well because within a matter of fourteen lines, give or take a few, McDonough is able to twist the narrative every which way. This source focuses on point of view and can help with a better analysis of the meanings of each of her sonnets.
gives a lot of space to the precise words of the people whose stories
she tells – not just the condemned, but their victims, and the words of
judges and journalists and eyewitnesses” (par. 2).
“She is a magnificent listener, who notices nuance in text with the same finesse most of us have for speech” (par. 2).
Green, Heather. "HABEAS CORPUS by JILL MCDONOUGH." Rev. of Jill McDonough’s Habeas Corpus. OCTOPUSMAGAZINE#11. Web. 02 Jan. 2011.
Heather Green discuses how Jill McDonough's publication, Habeas Corpus, brings to attention, the lives of people in history who have been legally executed. Although written as poetry, McDonough’s work is read more like a history book, partly because of its chronological order. McDonough researched all of the topics that are in her book between 2000 and 2005, a great deal of time after the events actually occurred. She not only describes the executions through her poems but seems more like a witness to each event because of her use of details and dimensions in each poem. This source could be used to show the actual history of her poems and how her work is more like a piece of history rather than elements of poetry and literature.
book is ultimately concerned with producing, within the poems, the
bodies of fifty particular people who have been legally executed in
America, and bearing witness to how, and often to why, those bodies’
lives were extinguished” (par. 2).
sonnet’s micro-narrative seems to reflect the greatest fears and
paranoias of its era: religious difference, loss of property, Communism,
and, pervading every time period, we find the fear of anyone who is not
white” (par. 3).
author’s voice rarely enters in overtly, and she avoids didacticism
effectively this way, but she is present everywhere in the volume as
curator, documentarian, citizen, and, of course, poet” (par. 5).
“The sonnet form creates a continuity that allows multiple voices to speak using various registers, which vary from the religious to the legal to the scientific to the expletive” (par. 8).
Jones-Pruett, Danielle. Interview with Jill McDonough. “Getting Sloppy with Jill McDonough.” Breakwater Review. 10 January 2011.
This interview between Jill McDonough and Danielle Jones-Pruett consists of a lot of information regarding McDonough’s personal and professional life.
Before the actual interview begins, the interviewer provides us with the events surrounding the moment in order to give us a sense of the setting, and some of the circumstances surrounding the interview. It is from this introduction paragraph that we learn McDonough is a member of the LGBT community.
the very first question/answer, it is made clear that McDonough is
recognized as a Library of Congress Poet, and was recently hononered
with the Witter Byner Award (par. 2). Later on in the interview,
McDonough also makes it clear that she does not regret any of the works
that she has had published, seeing as she has gone to great lengths to
ensure the efficiency of her work. McDonough adds that in regards to
writing Habeas Corpus she, “really wanted to write this book, and I really wanted it to be my first”
(par.18). We are also reminded that McDonough teaches at UMass Boston,
Harvard, Stanford, and in prisons, but we learn that not only does she enjoy teaching online, McDonough enjoys teaching at such varied
environments as a result of the varied experiences she shares with each
group (par.19-20). McDonough goes on to inform us that she respects how
with each group: all of her students are eager to learn and do the work
(par. 24). Pruett shares with us that many of the UMass students
describe McDonough as being generous, even though McDonough expected
them to categorize her as a rigorous teacher (par.28). One student even
went as far as to describe how “
In a city where everyone is crawling on top of each other to get ahead,
Jill's willing to give so much time and attention to you just because"
McDonough goes on to describe how this generosity assists in teaching,
as it is able to encourage students, especially in the case of the
prisoners, to do the work that they would otherwise view as too much
(par. 36). She goes on to describe how she takes her work very
seriously, to the point where she feels like a failure if a student does
not show up to her classes repeatedly (par. 38). McDonough is also a
strong proponent for
the memorization of poetry, as she claims that many of those poems
“changed my life” (par.40). We also learn that McDonough is friends with
Maggie Dietz, a poet who she claims provided her with the big break
that thrust her into the poetry spotlight (par.44). She met Dietz
through her BU degree, and the two would take the time to read each
others poetry (par.44). McDonough also claims to have shut out those
people whom she felt were detrimental to her writing process (par. 50).
In the end, McDonough claims that at times she disliked her profession,
but she realizes now that there is no other job for her than what she is
doing now (par.52).
various aspects of this interview can be used to further develop our
analysis of Jill McDonough’s character. For example, the fact that she
is a Library of Congess Poet speaks volumes about her work and status in
the field of poetry. The fact that McDonough is described as a generous
individual also helps to explain her willingness to teach in prisons,
in addition to her overall seal for teaching, which inspires her to take
all her students very seriously. The fact that McDonough has teaching
jobs at some of the county’s best institutions also says a lot about her
A lot of the interview consists of biographical information but there were some answers that McDonough gave about Habeas Corpus that really caught my attention. McDonough felt that using sonnets to produce the book made it seem less like a novel and a reader could really focus on the “stories” instead of getting lost in the formality of a novel. The reason behind only 50 sonnets in her book was because there are only 50 states. There have been over 20,000 executions throughout the history of the U.S., but McDonough chose 50 of the most eventful ones. McDonough had to separate the researching from her writing in order to produce poetry instead of a history book. The part of the source that I used focused mainly on her reason for choosing the sonnet form and can be used to help described her reasoning for her choice of structure.
“I wanted to use the sonnet for several reasons. For one thing, most of these guys didn't get a tombstone, or a eulogy, and the formality of the sonnet seemed to be a way of acknowledging that and giving back something that they hadn't had” (par. 8).
“So I guess, sonnet for the brevity of the form, the purpose of the form, and also the tradition of the form” (par. 8).
McDonough, Jill. Interview with Emily Brandt. "American Executions and Shakespearean Sonnets." New York Examiner. 17 Aug. 2009. Web. 05 Jan. 2011.
This source is another interview with McDonough that discusses her interest in American executions and why she made certain choices about her poetry.
What got Jill McDonough interested in the executions were that they were a secret worth looking into to better understand the secret history. She was interested in the formality and repetition of the executions. This source also talks about McDonough’s use of the sonnet form. Because there were so many executions and so many different situations with each, she wanted the form of all of her findings to be continuous, and a sonnet was the most repetitous and continuous thing she could imagine that was still a form of poetry. The end of this interview can be used more for biographical information about how she got into a lot of her research of executions.
“The words aren’t just her own – McDonough incorporates the commentary of the condemned or eyewitnesses in each of the poems, adding a documentarian sensibility” (par. 1).
“I wanted to link these exiles back into a tradition, witnessing their deaths in a formal way” (par. 8).
“Last meals, last words, hooded executioners, a government function that takes place in the middle of the night” (par. 4).
McDonough, Jill. “Questions for Interview.” E-mail to Joshua Jerome, Kristina Katz, and Phillip Tang. 11 Jan. 2011.
our interview with McDonough, we were able to learn that she enjoyed
reading and sharing jokes with her family ever since she was a young
girl (McDonough, “Quetions For Interview”par1.) It is also
important to note that it was at this stage in her life that McDonough
realized the importance of conversation and reading, though she never
had any distinct role models (par.1). McDonough also makes mention of
her involvement with teaching in prisons, and how she was inspired by
her grad school professor who encouraged students to attend the
regarding that were help at these prisons (par.4). Currently, McDonogh
is working in Utah as a visiting professor while carrying out intensive
research about Utah and the Mormon church (par.6).
The idea behind McDonough’s research was to look at “a secret history, a forgotten side of American Law” (par. 4). The reason she decided to use sonnets instead of essays to express her opinions about the death penalty because they were formal and short enough to help her to stay focused about her work. She felt as though they were the “eulogy or gravestone that these people did not get” (par. 4). She felt as though she were some sort of spy and she was able to investigate this hidden side to America and the way society works.
Schneiderman, Jason. "In Praise of Jill McDonough's Habeas Corpus." Rev. of Jill McDonough’s Habeas Corpus.. Web blog post. The Best American Poetry. 06 Jan. 2010. Web. 02 Jan. 2011.
Jill McDonough’s research about executions and the penal system for Habeas Corpus made it seem like she has known these people intimately. The historical voice that she uses throughout her poems is not her own but she is somehow able to be connected to it. In her poems, McDonough does not try to assume or guess what happened in history. She bases her poems off of pure factual information. It gives her poems the realistic feel to them that is needed for a reader to understand the historical events. Schneirderman feels as though McDonough has left her book with unfinished and unnecessary pieces of history. He thinks by reading her work, he has only touched the “tip of the iceberg” of these historical events. This source shows the reason behind what phrases and words she used and how she used her data and analysis to produce the sonnets.
“McDonough’s ability to switch in and out of the voice of the historical record is both alienating and masterful” (par. 4).
“McDonough also slips out of rhyme in favor of assonance, allowing repeated vowel sounds to provide the Shakespearean skeleton of abab cdcd efef gg” (par. 5).
“7 December 1982.” Execution of the Day. Web. 8 Jan. 2011.
A short web blog containing the rundown on the execution of a man named Charles Brooks. He and a partner, Woody Lourdes, were convicted for murder. But it was unclear which man actually pulled the trigger. Neither would confess. And yet, Lourdes was given the 40 year sentence while Brooks was given the death injection.
“Murderer Charles (or Charlie) Brooks Jr was the first person to be put to death by lethal injection in the United States.” (par. 1)
“They both tied him to a motel chair using coat hangers, gagged him, then one of them shot him in the head.” (par. 2)
“Neither confessed who actually fired the gun, but legal wranglings meant that Lourdes landed a 40-year sentence while Brooks got the death penalty.” (par. 3)
One of McDonough’s stronger poems in the book focuses on Charles Brooks. The clear unfairness of his situation is entirely exacerbated by the poem. A justice system, ideally is supposed to capture criminals, provide extensive and conclusive proof that the accused is guilty, and then dole out punishment as deemed appropriate. The exact frightening opposite occurred to Brooks - He was captured with a partner, but the partner received a lesser sentence, Brooks himself got the death sentence despite lack of decisive evidence - and he was killed in what McDonough deemed an inhumane way, as he suffered all throughout the shot. If all this irony wasn’t enough, the press reported the execution as painless. Using this source we can seem to affirm McDonough’s stance on execution and the death penalty.
“America’s Tug of War over Sanctioned Death The U.S. History of Capital Punishment.” Random History. 19 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.
The roots of American execution were formed in Europe during the time of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment. At first, crime was punished through ineffective means such as torturing a criminal and deciding his/her innocence based on whether or not they survived. It was believed that survival indicated favor from the gods. As such, this and similar methods were later labeled ineffective. In their place, came sadistic torture and execution meant to exact vengeance upon the accused for his/her crime. Torture was slowly phased out, but execution still remained, but along with the newly conceptualized incarceration. Execution became a standard punishment in early colonial America. Later in the future, traditional methods like hanging were being perceived as too brutal. The electric chair was introduced. The morality of execution remains a back and forth topic, but it’s impossible to deny the impact it had across American society as a whole.
“In the first half of the nineteenth century, the American capital punishment debate boiled down to two ways of seeing the world and the war between those two ways. One side had sympathy for the criminal, which the opposition said made it impossible to see the larger picture. The other side saw the larger picture but not the individual human beings that made it up” (par. 14)
“The main points of the worldwide debate currently surrounding the death penalty are not new but seem to accumulate and converge as societies progress. Does the death penalty protect society by ridding it of evil and actually deter people from committing crimes? Does it exact retribution from criminals appropriately, in fair proportion to the crime committed? Is the punishment used fairly in terms of the race and class of its victims? Is capital punishment barbaric or does it have a place in civilized society? Is the death penalty justified in the vast monies saved by not having to support such criminals with incarceration for their lifetimes, or is its cost to society's humanity even dearer?” (par. 25)
To others, this is just random history. But for us, this source would serve best as a backbone for our philosophical dive into execution. To fully understand McDonough’s poems, it’s optimal for us to know exactly how execution came about, and more importantly, how it was perceived throughout American history. The constant question of morality that execution and the death penalty faces no doubt features prominently in many, if not all, of McDonough’s Habeus Corpus poems, and thus it is imperative that we are able to identify whenever she alludes to this aspect of execution.
"Coming Out In America - A Historical Perspective." Cowboy Frank. 2 Sept. 2007. Web. 07 Feb. 2011.
This source is another time-line, but it is of the history of the LGBT Movement and how it got started.
This source takes us through the years of the LGBT times. It even pre-dates the LGBT Movement and gives a context as to how America felt about the subject in the early ages. It gives a history of how the words that make up LGBT came to be. The LGBT movement really began in the 1950’s. A lot of what history says about homosexual conduct and what surrounds it was based a lot on what was believed at the time and what was expected of society. As the 1950’s hit, the idea of homosexuality came back into the minds of Americans. It was certainly not a subject that was to be taken lightly, but many people ignored the ideas and theories behind it all. Through the 50s and the 60s, LGBT individuals still were not obtaining the recognition and rights that they had hoped for. It was not until the 1970’s when everything was out in the open and the LGBT community made its grand debut. Since then, the community has seen a lot of recognition and openness throughout the country, but they still have a while until it is all out.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. France: Gallimard, 1975. Print.
Here we have a substantial outline of the book Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault created by affiliates of the University of Minnesota. The book is a philosophical examination of western penal systems in the modern age. It explores documents from France in depth, but also of particular focus is the effects those documents had in shaping the systems in the west. Foucault believes that the influence from humanitarian and reformist movements in the development of prisons is overstated. Instead, he believes prisons came about thanks to a certain order of power he calls disciplines, which can be found in almost all kinds of human made systems, including schools and the military. The book is divided into four major - torture, punishment, discipline, and prison. This document gives a marvelous breakdown of the book part by part, and section by section.
“Punishment took on a social contract model (89-90) where violations of the law violated the contract of the society. The right to punish has been shifted from the vengeance of the sovereign to the defense of society” (90).” (part 2)
“Five or six major rules of punishment:
-- The rule of minimum quantity (to create more interest in avoiding the penalty than committing the crime)
-- The rule of sufficient ideality (the idea of pain needs to be a sufficient deterrent)
-- The rule of lateral effects (punishment that has minimal effects for the criminal and maximum effects on other members of society)
-- The rule of perfect certainty (clearly define and publish offenses and their punishments)
-- The rule of common truth (reason will be applied to determine the truth of any criminal matter)
-- The rule of optimal specification (since punishment must prevent a repetition of the offense, it must take into account the profound nature of the criminal himself and individualize the penalty)” (part 2)
“Each punishment should teach a lesson; each punishment should be a fable (113).” (part 2)
“The emergence of the prison marks the institutionalization of the power to punish, or, to be more precise: will the power to punish be better served by concealing itself beneath a general social function, in the ‘punitive city,’ or by investing itself in a coercive institution, in the enclosed space of the ‘reformatory’?” (129-30).” (part 2)
This source has definite potential to augment our understanding of both the death penalty, and of prisons, which too are relevant to the life of McDonough. The quotes I have taken all come from part 2, the part I feel to be most relevant, considering it is titled Punishment, the embodiment of execution. In any case, one particularly interesting point we can glean from Foucault’s book is his list of rules for punishment. Taking the death penalty and running it through the gauntlet of these rules, certainly yields interesting results as to whether or not it actually passes as an effective punishment. In short, there is no clear answer. Yes, killing a man for his crimes is sure to be a major deterrent. But making him dead isn’t exactly causing him minimal damage, now is it? Taking all the rules into account and other information from the book, it’s all far too subjective. Bearing that in mind, McDonough must also have felt the same way when crafting poems for Habeus Corpus. Questions concerning the death penalty are all too ambiguous - as such, we can take that knowledge and analyze McDonough’s poems. The stance she establishes, therefore, must reflect her most adamant beliefs on the subject matter, since the death penalty is far from being a black and white type of issue. The philosophical inclinations of Foucault are sure to help guide us in identifying when and how McDonough is issuing judgments, critiques, or even just observations on the death penalty in her poems, no matter how subtle.
Head, Tom. "History of the Gay Rights Movement - An Illustrated History of the Gay Rights Movement in the United States." Civil Liberties at About.com. 2005. Web. 07 Feb. 2011.
This source is a time-line of major LGBT organizations and movements that have occurred and been founded over the years in America.
Head begins to discuss the early start of America and how “Jefferson proposed a law that would mandate castration for gay men and mutilation of nose cartilage for gay women” (Par. 1). Even though Jefferson was thought to be a liberal, he made the form of penalty for homosexual conduct to be death. In 1951, the first gay rights organization was founded. It was a small group of “gay men and women who created the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis who had to protect themselves by using code” (Par. 3-4). From then on, it became a domino effect of people in all the states trying to get recognition for LGBT members. Illinois still turned down the idea of homosexual behavior, but after the Stonewall riots, New York was a heavy supporter. Soon, the American Psychiatric Association and the Deomcratic National Convention were on board. Then came the city of Berkeley, CA and Hawaii. “In 1984, the City of Berkeley became the first U.S. government body to do so--offering lesbian and gay city and school district employees the same partnership benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted” (Par. 16). Even Bill Clinton, through his sex scandal days, supported homosexuals -- “Clinton authored Executive Order 13087--banning the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in employment” (Par. 19). Massachusetts caught on to the idea, being a major democratic state, and legalized same-sex marriage. The most recent of events for the LGBT community is the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law in the military. It now allows gays to serve openly without being penalized for it. The LGBT community has made significant progress over the years, but still has a long way to go to win over all of America.
“Introduction to the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty Information Center. Web. 8 Jan. 2011.
Supplementary information concerning the death penalty, and how exactly it made its way into the United States. It’s relevance throughout certain periods of time are covered. Notably is that in the 1960s, the constitutionality of the death penalty began to come under serious scrutiny. Specific cases are mentioned in detail. Resistance against it, as well as suspension, and even reinstatement, are all detailed. A graph shows visual evidence of the death penalty being banned by more and more states as the years go by - solid proof of it’s inhumanity being identified by a wider majority of peoples.
“The first recorded execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. Kendall was executed for being a spy for Spain. In 1612, Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws, which provided the death penalty for even minor offenses such as stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians.” (pg. 1, par. 2)
“During the Civil War, opposition to the death penalty waned, as more attention was given to the anti-slavery movement. After the war, new developments in the means of executions emerged. The electric chair was introduced at the end of the century. New York built the first electric chair in 1888, and in 1890 executed William Kemmler. Soon, other states adopted this execution method.” (pg. 1 par 12)
“Despite growing European abolition, the U.S. retained the death penalty, but established limitations on capital punishment.” (pg. 2 par. 3)
With the use of quotations like above from the source, we can begin to determine how Jill McDonough went about creating her book of poetry, Habeus Corpus. For example, since Kendall was the first man to ever be executed in America, it would seem she decided to begin with a poem about him. It’s also decent supplementary info for the death penalty in general. The electric chair being invented only at the turn of the 20th century would imply that more brutal methods were readily accepted before then. The subtle allusions that we can gleam from hard facts will allow our minds some more flexibility and knowledge on this topic, and perhaps give us insight as to what McDonough herself may have been thinking as she was creating her poems. The very fact that the US chose retention for the death penalty may have in itself been a core reason for McDonough to create Habeus Corpus.
“Mary Dyer: A Quaker Martyr.” The Colonial Gazette. Web. 8 Jan 2011.
A summary of what Mary Dyer did to earn a full fledged public execution at the hands of Boston authority. As Quakers, the mere presence of she and her cohorts was intolerable. And so they were hanged - but Mary desired that fate. She sought to make a point as to who the true monsters were by subjecting herself to the barbaric execution. Martyr, or fool?
“In September of 1659, Mary returned with William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson and Nicholas Davis, knowing full well of her peril, but with equal intent "to look the bloody laws in the face." (par. 6)
“But Mary, with the zeal of a martyr, once again choose to disobey and returned to the "bloody town of Boston," in May of 1660.” (par. 15)
“Mary's fate was now sealed, and it seems she desired it.” (par. 24)
We can use this source to ascertain Jill McDonough’s supposed personal stance on the subject of execution. As from a contemporary moral standpoint, Mary Dyer was unjustly murdered, and for incredibly vain reasons. For her to include not one, but two poems about Mary Dyer, says something for certain. Pointless, unnecessary, and evil - are these words that McDonough herself might use to describe execution and the death penalty? The source gives us a different magnifying glass from which to view the poems centered on this incident - and from that, possible hints as to how the topic of execution is being treated.
“The Death Penalty in Massachusetts Facts and History.” Resources for keeping the death penalty out of Massachusetts. Death Penalty Information Center. Web. 8 Jan. 2011.
As the title might imply, it’s a bit of a history lesson regarding the death penalty in Massachusetts. Prior to 1951, executing criminals was a common occurrence. Murder was almost certainly punished by execution. Rape and any crime affiliated with rape was most certainly punished by execution. But then, it got banned and remains that way to this day with almost no hope for reinstatement.
“In total, there have been approximately 345 executions within Massachusetts, including 26 convicted of practicing witchcraft.” (par.1)
“During the 1970's and 80's, a series of judicial rulings eventually eliminated the death penalty altogether under Massachusetts law” (par. 4)
“Subsequent attempts to reinstate the death penalty have failed” (par. 9)
We can use this source to give ourselves some useful background info. The reason this may prove useful is because many poems in Habeus Corpus have Massachusetts as the setting - or more accurately, the location of the gallows from where innocents choke to death. This may provide us some insight as to why McDonough chose MA frequently for her settings - perhaps since it’s been banned for some 50 odd years now, she may fear the tragedies of the death penalty have been forgotten, and that to her is unacceptable. Or she may feel the deaths of innocent people should not be taken so lightly, even if they did occur so long ago.
“The Execution of Willie Francis.” The Execution of Willie Francis. Gilbert King, 2007. Web. 8 Jan 2011.
17 year old Willie Francis, a black man, is charged of murdering his employer. The trial was unsurprisingly one sided - Francis’ court appointed defense attorney displayed absolutely no effort in doing their damn job. He was scheduled to die by the electric chair. He sat down. He didn’t die - thanks to the poor maintenance of the chair by a drunk executioner. He was scheduled to die again, in 6 days. Bertrand DeBlanc fought adamantly to try and have the decision reversed. It was not. This time, Willie Francis died for the second and last time. Also this is an advertisement for a book.
“Three hundred pounds of oak and metal, the chair had been dubbed “Gruesome Gertie.” At 12:08 PM, the executioners flipped the switch. Willie screamed and writhed under his restraints. The chair shuddered and slid across the floor. But Willie Francis did not die.” (par. 2)
“DeBlanc would battle those on both sides of the color line in the hope of saving Willie Francis from an inhuman fate.” (par. 3)
Despite being an advertisement, this is certainly informational enough to be of use to us. One simple fact is enough to infer many things. Willie Francis was executed, twice. If that isn’t the very definition of inhumanity I don’t know what is. And I would be inclined to believe that McDonough thinks the same way. That’s why one of her poem is about this kid. I believe we can firmly cement in the ground a belief that McDonough is rather anti-execution - as well as disgusted by how execution influenced human behavior throughout history, and the most scary part, in [relatively] recent times to boot.