Jonestown’s Young Poets

Barbara Walker may have written the longest poems recovered from Jonestown, but hers was not the only effort. Pat Grunnett forwarded two poems written by Jonestown youth to educator Jonathan Kozol in 1978, and similar poetry has appeared in documents that the FBI recovered following the mass deaths.

Only one of the two poets below is known. Jimmy Cordell was the youngest member of his family to emigrate, first from his hometown of Indianapolis to California, and then to Guyana, where he died along with 20 relatives. The undated tribute to Jim Jones was likely written when Jimmy was 13.

The other poet, Christopher Campbell, is unknown – no one by that name died in Guyana – but the language and setting of the piece suggest that the author, using a nom de plume, was Jimmy Cordell’s contemporary who, like Jimmy, lived and likely died in Jonestown.

Two Poems, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-1-C-12, EE-1-C-35