Words to die to

For my found poem, I chose to use the FBI transcript of the “Death Tape” from the Jonestown Massacre.  The full transcript can be found following this link: https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=29081 . I chose this text because the Jonestown Massacre has always been something that has intrigued and troubled me. For those of you who don’t know what the Jonestown Massacre was, on November 18th, 1978, charismatic cult leader and priest Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple cult, instructed his followers of over 900 people to drink cyanide infused flavor aid, in what he called an act of “revolutionary suicide.” The deaths included the murder of over 200 children. Jim Jones established The People’s Temple, a Christian sect, preaching against racism and about an open and diverse world where love conquers all. He eventually led his followers to the beautiful country of Guyana where they made their home in the commune known as Jonestown. They had established a flourishing community there, but when word reached the states that some of Jones followers wanted to leave but were not allowed, some concerned family members of People’s Temple followers brought it to the attention of congressman Leo Ryan. Ryan and a few family members made a trip to Guyana to see what the situation was. They stayed a couple of days and a few of the members of People’s Temple elected to leave with them. Jim Jones begrudgingly allowed them to leave, as he didn’t have much of a choice in front of the congressman. When their plane was about to take off, everyone who was attempting to board the plane was shot dead via Jones’ orders. The events that followed are explained by the “Death Tape” and how Jones convinced nearly a thousand people to kill themselves. If you have ever heard the phrase “don’t drink the Kool-aid” this is where that expression comes from. The expression typically means, don’t believe everything you are told. It’s origins are very dark but also inaccurate, as the drink mixture of cyanide wasn’t actually with the Kool-aid brand but with grape Flavor-aid.

I took the transcript, as prepared by the FBI, and printed it off. I then cut up everything that Jones said, directed at his followers, specifically when he was speaking on their behalf or at them about their fate. The tape shows that at this point Jones is somewhat incoherent at times, he rambles a bit and sometimes doesn’t make a lot of sense. But overall his tone is very depressed and hopeless. I took pieces of his ramblings and final conversation with his followers, and made into more of a coherent explanation for why he thought this was the only route they could go.

My found poem can be found here:

Words to die to

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