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Sarah Ellen Procter, Charged with the Murder of Charlotte Whale, 5/28/1888

The Old Bailey, London’s main criminal court, has published all court proceedings between 1674 and 1913 online. True crime historians everywhere have begun to salivate as surely as Pavlov’s dog drooled at the ring of a bell.

I’ve already taken a “found poetry” approach to a few recent posts in the True Crime Tumblelog. This is in no way intended to be frivolous, but a re-structuring of how one might look at a given story. A found poem is all about taking existing text and presenting it in a way that alters the reader’s view of the subject. Where a crime story is concerned, it can be a route to deeper meaning, learning something more profound about the human experience in general.

Just in case you think this is an odd approach coming from a true crime blogger, well, it isn’t. Not from me, at least. My first published work was poetry. Three pieces were published in an anthology of Nashville-area poets who congregated around an iconic downtown establishment for many years (only paid in copies of the book, but that’s par for the course, much of the time). Another poem I wrote 20 years ago was once highlighted in the Poet’s Market by one publisher as an example of precisely the sorts of submissions he wanted from others.

I first published this in the TC Tumblelog, but I felt it was a bit long for that site — I try to keep tumblelog entries brief, in keeping with the format as most people understand it.

Here’s some found poetry from the Old Bailey proceedings referenced in the title of this entry — in keeping with my understanding of the form, I’ve made no alterations to the text short of leaving out some words and punctuation — enjambment sometimes takes the place of punctuation in what you’re about to read…

ELLEN CALLOW:

I knew the deceased, Charlotte Whale,
She lived with me last summer
She arrived that day with the prisoner
I had seen the prisoner before
but did not know much of her

She said she would rather
Be in the same place as Charlotte Whale

HENRY CALLOW:

Half past 8 on the Tuesday morning
my wife came into my room
in cones sequence of what she said

I saw Whale lying on the bed
with her head
very much injured;
she was alive,
lying on her left side
with her face towards the wall
I saw that the skull
had been injured
I at once dressed
went downstairs,
and there
saw the prisoner
sitting on a chair

She said I done it,
I meant doing it;
I owed her a grudge,
I know I shall swing for it

GUILTY of the act charged,
but being insane

To be detained
during Her Majesty’s pleasure.