In retrospect, we should have assumed that outlaw country musician Johnny Cash was leading a double life as a secret poet. First of all, he dressed all in black. Also, he did a lot of drugs, and everybody knows that drugs are a gateway drug for poetry. None of this is to complain, though. We assumed that Cash—who died 13 years ago at the age of 71—had long since ceased bestowing his gifts upon the world. Now, however, we’re getting a brand new book full of Cash’s unpublished verse.
Forever Words: The Unknown Poems was compiled from scraps of paper “stored away in desk drawers in his office and filing cabinets in a storage room,” according to the singer’s son, John Carter Cash, who worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon to assemble 41 pieces for the anthology.
“My father was a diverse character,” the younger Cash told People Magazine. “There’s a great mystery there, but there are many aspects of my father that were simple, true and easy to understand. I believe this book touches on those very aspects of his character and provides a deeper understanding of the man. I think he’d be happy with the material we released.”
The oldest poem, “The Things We’re Frightened At,” was written when The Man In Black was just a 12-Year-Old Boy In Black. This newest, “Forever,” was written only two months before he succumbed to complications related to diabetes in 2003.
You tell me that I must perish
Like the flowers that I cherish
Nothing remaining of my name
Nothing remembered of my fame
But the trees that I planted
Still are young
The songs I sang
Will still be sung
“It’s very short, but it’s also profound,” Cash’s son told People, ”a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t define who my father was, but offers a glimpse of him that many people haven’t seen before.”
Forever Words is available for purchase now.