SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Bonnie and Clyde - Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow wrote poems between robbing banks and killing people before they died in a shootout with the law in 1934. And now some of the poems they wrote, along with a notebook and photos, are going up for auction. Don Ackerman is consignment director for Heritage Auctions. They're putting the items up for bid. Mr. Ackerman, thanks for being with us.
DON ACKERMAN: Thank you.
SIMON: Where do the poems come from? Who's been keeping them?
ACKERMAN: They were actually consigned to us by Clyde Barrow's nephew.
SIMON: It was known during their lifetimes that Bonnie Parker wrote poetry. It would occasionally make it into print. As a matter of fact, we have a clip from that famous Arthur Penn film of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway where Faye Dunaway, as Bonnie Parker, reads some from one of her poems.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BONNIE AND CLYDE")
FAYE DUNAWAY: (As Bonnie Parker, reading) You've heard 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. Now, Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang. I'm sure you all have read how they rob and steal, and those who squeal are usually found dying or dead.
SIMON: What are most of the poems about?
ACKERMAN: Well, it's pretty much along those same lines. They've - were written while they were trying to elude the police. They're trying to justify their existence. They're saying that they're getting bad press, that they're really not that bad. Like, if they tie somebody up to a tree, they don't tie them up too tightly so that when they leave, the person can get away. But it's really very redolent of the gangster type of language that was popular at the time in the Warner Brothers movies. But when you're reading the poetry, there's sort of a fatalism involved there. They know that they're doomed and that they're never going to be free.
SIMON: Is there a poem you could read for us?
ACKERMAN: Clyde also wrote a poem. And his spelling skills weren't very good. His grammar was not very good. But he's got, like, a 13-stanza poem. I'll try to read a couple of stanzas from it. (Reading) Bonnie's just written a poem - "The Story Of Bonnie And Clyde." So I will try my hand at poetry with her writing by my side. As we travel down the highway never knowing where it will end, never very much money and not even a friend.
And then he concludes (reading) now, that's not as good as Bonnie's, so I guess I will call it a flop. But please, God, just one more visit before we are put on the spot.
SIMON: Boy, what's it make you feel like to read that?
ACKERMAN: These people are sort of like folk heroes. And it's a really - it adds a really a personal touch to it. And there's an authenticity to it because, I mean, it's not a Hollywood movie. This was actually written by the real people. And they're really doomed lovers. So, I mean, it's sort of - it has a very poignant aspect to it.
SIMON: These poems and photos, I gather, are slated to go up for auction on May 4, right?
ACKERMAN: May 4, yeah. They'll be put up for auction here in Dallas.
SIMON: Yeah. There are some people who won't handle this merchandise, aren't there?
ACKERMAN: I don't think so. A company has a policy not to handle serial killers, like John Wayne Gacy and Charles Manson. But when it comes to the gangsters, like, from the 1920s and 1930s, that's a different category as far as we're concerned. I don't think too many people would find this objectionable.
SIMON: Don Ackerman of Heritage Auctions, thanks so much for being with us.
ACKERMAN: OK. You're welcome. Thank you.
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