February 2019 | Nate Pedersen

Bonnie and Clyde Poetry at Auction

[Image from Wikipedia]

Bonnie and Clyde 

You've read the story of 'Jesse James',

Of how he lived and died. 

If you're still in need 

Of something to read, 

Here's the story of 'Bonnie and Clyde.'

So begins the famous poem written by Bonnie Parker, of the notorious crime duo Bonnie and Clyde. The original manuscript of that poem, along with a number of others purportedly written by the pair in a 1933 Year Book are being offered for auction at Heritage in April.

The young lovers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow blazed their way through the Depression-era American South in a string of crime, including theft, kidnapping, and murder, before being gunned down in a Louisiana ambush in 1934.

At some point in their travels, they appear to have acquired a 1933 Year Book (essentially a daily planner), which had been abandoned or tossed out by its former owner.  As a matter of interest to print culture enthusiasts of the way books and manuscripts are adapted over time, the original owner of the year book seems to have been a serious golfer. The duo, having acquired the planner, then began writing poetry of their life of the run in the blank pages, including "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde," written by Bonnie, which is their most well-known literary output. That poem was ripped out of the planner and set in an envelope, which is being included in the auction. 

Clyde seems to have written an occasionally playful, occasionally melancholic response to Bonnie's poem in September of 1933:

Bonnie's Just Written a poem
the Story of Bonnie & Clyde. So
I will try my hand at Poetry
With her riding by my side.

The poem continues:

We donte want to hurt anney one / but we have to Steal to eat. / and if it's a shoot out to / to live that's the way it / will have to bee.We have kidnapped some / people. And tied them to a tree / but not so tight that after we / were gone tha could not get / themselves free. / We are going home tomorrow / to look in on the folks. We will / meet then out near Grape Vine / if the Laws donte get there / first. / Now that's not as good as / Bonnies. So I guess I / Will call it a flop- / But please God Just one / moore visit before we are / Put on the spot.

Heritage has declined to definitively authenticate the handwriting as that of Bonnie and Clyde as little has survived, however they noted similiarities between the handwriting in the book and the few examples of their handwriting that exist elsewhere. The notebook has also been owned for decades by Barrow's family.  It was consigned to Heritage by Clyde Barrow's nephew.