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Transcript of Lincoln Inspires Poem for 16th President

Poet and journalist Cynthia Zarin often writes poems inspired by news articles. In 1989, she came across a story about a handwritten transcript found in a shoebox. It recorded a case in which then-lawyer Abraham Lincoln successfully defended a man on trial for murder. The article inspired her to write "Of Lincoln."

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  • CYNTHIA ZARIN, poet:

    My name is Cynthia Zarin. I'm a poet and a journalist, and I teach at Yale.

    In the 1980s, I often wrote poems inspired by newspaper articles. One day in 1989, I came across a story about a hundred-page hand-written transcript which had been found in what was described as "a mouse-chewed shoebox." The transcript recorded a case in which Abraham Lincoln successfully defended a young man, Peachy Quinn Harrison, who was on trial for murder of a man called Greek Crafton.

    I was struck that so much has been said and written about Lincoln but we do not know what his own voice sounded like. And here was the first record we had of his colloquial speech.

    When I wrote "Of Lincoln," I was thinking about the power of the voices that have shaped our nation.