Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola's History

Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola's History

by Carol Tyx
Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola's History

Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola's History

by Carol Tyx


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"A compassionate and imaginative retelling of a harrowing period in American penal history." Andy Douglas, Author of Redemption Songs:A Year in the Life of a Community Choir

Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola's History explores, through poetry in the voices of those who took part, the String Heel Incident of the 1950s, when 31 inmates crippled themselves by slicing through their Achilles tendons in protest of the horrifying conditions at Angola Prison. The history of The Louisiana State Penitentiary, called Angola, is filled with atrocities, abuses, horror stories. This particular incident was coordinated by the prisoners themselves to bring attention to their treatment, and story of the Heel String Incident spread throughout the U.S., finally calling attention to the horrible conditions and the needs for reform.

Poet Carol Tyx was named the inaugural winner of The Willow Run Poetry Book Award of Hidden River Arts for this stunning work.

Read the praise for Remaking Achilles:

"Remaking Achilles brings alive the vivid realities of Angola’s history. I study Angola,...this collection paints the horrors and injustices of time past in a way that the simple facts never do. Carol Tyx has done a remarkable job of reminding us all of where we came from and why we do not want to return." (Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, retired criminal justice professor and Angola historian)

"These sterling voices pretending to be persona poems are so well researched and authentically rendered that the painful and traumatic memories of Angola will continue to haunt readers long after the last pages are sliced open and left bleeding." (Frank X Walker, author of The Unghosting of Medgar Evers)

"A compassionate and imaginative retelling of a harrowing period in American penal history. With each vivid and lyrical insight, Carol Tyx weaves a compelling poetic tale depicting the effects of institutional racism and cruelty, of unimaginable hardship, but also of the human impulse to resist and seek dignity. In the darkest hours, there are sparks of light." (Andy Douglas, author of Redemption Songs: A Year in the Life of a Community Prison Choir)

Like the ghostly inmate who takes his place in the long line of U.S. prison atrocities, Carol Tyx claims her place in a long tradition of poets like Muriel Rukeyser (The Book of the Dead, 1938) and Carolyn Forché (The Angel of History, 1994), incorporating individual impersonations and historical documents into lines that incriminate us all. (Cecile Goding, The Iowa Summer Writing Festival)

As calls for reform of the systems of punishment and incarceration grow, Carol Tyx's work will take its place among those calls, bringing the voices of the victims themselves into the chorus.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780999491522
Publisher: Hidden River
Publication date: 02/01/2020
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.23(d)

About the Author

Carol Tyx, professor emeritus at Mt. Mercy University, lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she facilitates a prison book club, raises her voice in the community sing movement, and supports community-based agriculture. Her poetry has most recently been published in Big Muddy, Gyroscope Review, Iowa City Poetry in Public, and Rising to the Rim with Brick Road Poetry Press. She has received three Pushcart nominations. She also makes a phenomenal strawberry rhubarb pie.

Table of Contents


Introduction 11 Long and Winding Road 15

The Leased of These 1844–1901

First Heel-slasher: Theophile Chevalier 18 The Leased of These 19 Leasee: s.L. James 20 How to Make a Plantation Prison 21

The Long Line 1901–1951

Long Line 24 Before I Was Achilles I 25 It Bad Enough 26 Fifties Photo 27 Found Poem 1: Department of Justice survey

and Recommendations, 1945/1948 28 Mail Notes 29 Greens 30

Levee Life of Maggie Dixon 31 John Blue 32 Post Mortem: John Blue 33 Found Poem 2: Department of Justice survey

and Recommendations, 1945/1948 34 Convict Guards 35 Pelican Cannery 36 spoon 37 Prison Captain 38

Remaking Achilles February, 1951

Remaking Achilles: The Heel-slashers 40 Lineage 41 Heel street Boogie 42 First Responder: Nurse Daughtry 43 Dr. I.F. Littell Takes a Walk Around the Block 44 Tunnel-Digger to Heel-stringer: Wallace MacDonald 45 William Richardson: Reading hamlet in Charity Hospital,

New Orleans 46 stunt Man: Governor Earl Long 47 Warden Easterly Talks to the Press 48 Before I Was Achilles II 49 Taking the Long View: superintendent Lawrence 50 Lunch with the Warden: E.M. Clinton 51 second Cut 53 Discovering the Dungeons: Edward W. stagg 54

Inside the Big House: The Citizen Committee Investigation February to April, 1951

Wilber Blackie Comeaux Talks to Reporters 58 Found Poem 3: “Marse” Clifford Leake Addresses

the Committee on Day 1 59 Nurse Daughtry Crosses the Rubicon 60 Truth or Consequences: Dolph Frantz 61 Found Poem 4: Nurse Daughtry’s statement to the Committee 62 Decked Out: Maggie Dixon 63 Double Decker: sheriff Teddy Martin 64 Warden Easterly Responds to Nurse Daughtry’s Testimony 65 Achilles Responds to Nurse Daughtry’s Testimony:

Before I Was Achilles III 66 Warden Easterly Testifies to the Investigation Committee 67 Found Poem 5: Picayunes 68 Clifford LaCoste Takes Off the Red Hat 69 Easter Uprising: Hamilton Israel 70 sheriff Martin Celebrates Easter, 1951 72 A Fester on the Face of Democracy: Dolph Frantz 73 Of, For, and By the People: Governor Earl Long 75

Aftermath: Ain’t Over Yet Beyond April, 1951

Warden Easterly Refuses to Meet the Press 78 Maggie’s Pipeline 79 Dungeons at Angola Destroyed by Kennon as Prisoners Watch 80 The Hole Truth 81

Tending: Maggie Dixon 82 Letters to Maggie Dixon 83 Confession: Camillus Ellspermann 84 Parolee 85 420 Acre Day 86 Red Hat Redux: Remembering Clifford LaCoste 87 Point Lookout: Becoming Achilles 89

Notes 91 Acknowledgments 95

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