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Forever Words: The Unknown Poems

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,112 ratings  ·  134 reviews
Since his first recordings in 1955, Johnny Cash has been an icon in the music world. In his newly discovered poems and song lyrics, we see the world through his eyes. The poetry reveals his depth of understanding, both of the world around him and within - his frailties and his strengths alike. He pens verses in his hallmark voice, reflecting upon love, pain, freedom, fame ...more
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 17th 2016 by Canongate Books
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  1,112 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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Sean Barrs
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star-reads, poetry
Johnny cash was much more than he seemed, as the “Man in Black” he acquired a reputation. Such a label does nothing but reduce his personality down to a dark and sombre state, which is drastically unfair. Indeed, as indicated by John Carter Cash’s forward, none of us really knew his farther. Most of all Cash was human; he had many layers, some of which his words began to reveal and some of which will never be known.

Whilst working my way through this collection, I couldn’t help but hear Cash’s vo
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a great addition to anyone who loves Johnny Cash - uncollected unpublished song lyrics and/or poems, spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s. There is an introduction by his daughter, who helped pull the collection together from the many scraps and tidbits he left behind. I love how the book includes photos of some of the poems/songs on the scraps they were found - notebook paper, hotel stationery, airplane stationery. Some of them have a clear subject and some I suspect were not intended f ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Johnny Cash
Written by Johnny Cash and Edited by Paul Muldoon
2016; 144 Pages (Blue Rider Press)
Genre: poetry, songwriter, nonfiction


Since I was a kid I have been listening to Johnny Cash via my dad. It wasn't until I saw the movie Walk the Line that I came to appreciate Cash's talent. He wasn't only a singer and entertainer but a creative artist. He wrote many of his songs which always sound like poetry and most have a message. I was excited to see that there were publishi
Laura Rash
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delight to any true Cash fan!
Earlier this school year (after Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature), I had my eighth grade honors students debate the question, "Is there a difference between poetry and song lyrics?" Furthermore, I asked them if they could tell the difference if they read them on a page. The consensus was "yes," there is a difference and yes, one can tell the difference is (usually) pretty clear.

I was reminded of that discussion as I read through this collection of Johnny Cash "poems." It is clear tha
Temple Cone
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
In response to the awarding of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan, reporters and bloggers anxiously mused, "Are song lyrics poetry?" As musings go, this one is wooly and threadbare as grandfather's cardigan, offering little more than terms of exclusion; "Get out of my anthology!" shouts Pop-Pop at the neighborhood kids. A question that yields more insight, but that also takes longer than a blog post to answer, might be "Where is the poetry in song lyrics?"

I found myself asking that
Olin Postlethwait
Never thought I'd read a book of poems, and if you told me I would, I wouldn't have guessed they'd have been Johnny Cash's. But as I was reading, I could hear the melancholic baritone of the legend himself, and the boom-chicka of his guitar. ...more
Barnabas Piper
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you love Johnny Cash you’ll love these poems. That’s kind of the point.
January Gray
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for fans of Johnny Cash and his music. Except for a brief narrative at the beginning of the book, the rest of the book is full of Johnny's poems, and also includes some photographs of his handwritten notes.
Reading these made me feel like I got to know him even more. He even ranted in one of them! ;)
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, audiobooks
I listened to this while I was taking a walk today, and after a slow opening forward by his son, Johnny Cash's poetry stunned me. This short collection of poems illustrates in a very palpable way the power of poetry, for if anyone were to look at Mr. Cash and then at me, they would see no shortage of differences. But some of his poems could have been written by me. It's such a fantastic avenue to illustrate how words can unite people, no matter how different they may seem: everyone knows Johnny ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading_americas
Song lyrics and poems are not exactly the same (as the fine introduction points out) - and this is probably a bit of both, but it's hard to tell, when you're reading and your brain keeps adding a tune and the voice of the man in black in your head. Definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys both
the humour and seriousness of Johnny Cash who is always full of words of violence, love and social indignation.
Aaron Badgley
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fantastic poems, great introduction by poet Paul Muldoon, great book.
Jun 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A loving testament to a father from his son showing the talents of Johnny Cash in his poems.
You can feel the love and pain and addiction and loss and religion in his poems. Very moving.
Hailey Thompson
Every Johnny Cash fan should read this, I highly recommend this book. This book shows a whole other side of him, we get to learn so much more about The Man In Black.
His son, John Carter Cash, wrote a beautiful introduction that lets us get glimpse into the life of Johnny Cash.
There are copies of his handwritten poems and lyrics and a couple photographs that are featured in this book, I think they add a very special touch.
Johnny Cash was one of the best storytellers in my opinion, so it's great
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, poetry
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

First of all, I am not a country music fan so my knowledge of Johnny Cash music is extremely limited. I wanted to read this collection of poems, however, because the title is stunningly beautiful. Forever Words implies a promise of remembrance. But remembrance of what or of whom? Shakespeare wrote of the immortality of love achieved through poetry in Sonnet XVIII:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of t
Katrina Ayala
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forever Words is a wonderful collection of almost lost treasure. Johnny Cash has been an icon in the music industry since the 1950s. This book contains a poems, song lyrics and handwritten letters that the world has yet to see. They are being published for the very first time in “Forever Words.”

Being a Johnny Cash fan myself, I was incredibly overjoyed by the prospect of this book. I read through the entire thing in the span of an hour. That being said, I’ll be thumbing through this book for yea
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book begins with a personal tribute to Cash by his son. Following is an introduction by a poet who is comparing Cash's writing to other poets and lyricist. The poems themselves read mostly like song lyrics in search of a tune. ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Poems are lyrics that were not set to music. They provide insight into Johnny Cash's thoughts about the world around him. ...more
Mary E. Gilmore
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a gem. I'll be reading his poems again and again. ...more
Katrina Jayne
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really makes you think.

Really liked this book, it's like a little bit of his soul left behind in his words. Worth the read.
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Johnny Cash has always been a ghostly figure on the periphery of my life. I grew up in a Christian home filled largely with the sounds of Christian music. Except when Dad and I would take a trip down to Grandpa's farm; without any big announcement, Dad would tune the radio to the AM country station (KRVN out of Lexington, NE), and for the next hour and a half, we'd listen to Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, etc. So I've always associated country music with "going home"; ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let me start by saying I love Johnny Cash, and I think his music is timeless. I have read a bit about him and June, and a bit of his prose too, but this book of "unknown poems" is a treat. If you know anything about Johnny Cash then you know he was a poet, he loved June above all, he was a man of God for certain, he also tirelessly struggled with addiction. All of the familiar themes in Cash's music are here, and heartfelt as ever. Some of the poems you can really feel, and his imagery is spot o ...more
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful collection of words and poetry from Johnny Cash. Everything can be read so distinctly in his voice it’s like he is reciting his work in front of you. These poems span years of Cash’s creative life, touching on subjects like war, poverty, substance use, love, spite, jealousy, touch, and tenderness. Reading it truly made me feel like i’m the cowboy now. Good for a laugh or a cry, but I love that Cash’s rich and sardonic tone is present throughout.
Favorite poems: Ballad of Johnny Capman;
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just love Johnny Cash so much. Such a wonderful soul and singer! A beautiful book filled with wonderful poems by this amazing author! The book also contains pictures of his life and his handwritings. I got it as a Christmas gift and could not have received a better one being a huge Johnny Cash fan myself. Loved it!
Josh Hamon
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun read for die hard Johnny Cash fans. I usually skip introductions and forewords, but this one has a touching tribute to his father by John Carter Cash.

The layout is a little rough, multiple poems spill over the page by just a couple of lines.
Tasmin Bradshaw
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Absolutely loved this. Johnny cash was such a brilliant story teller and much as he was a fantastic singer. ♥
Rachel Louise Atkin
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
4.5 stars.
Grace Morse
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Forever Words: The Unknown Poems written by Johnny Cash and edited by Paul Muldoon is an excellent poetry piece to add to your bookshelf. This book is perfect for Johnny Cash fanatics like myself. This book was published in 2016, but has pieces of Cash’s work dated all the way back to the 1960’s. The poems are beautifully written and mirror the author’s music. Everyone knew Cash’s voice, so he entire time while reading these poems, I read them in his voice, which was very soothing. This book is ...more
Samantha Ivy (SundressSecrets)
Head on over to my Instagram at for reviews ...more
Dane Cobain
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is basically a collection of Cash’s poetry and lyrics, with occasional handwritten reproductions and ongoing commentary from his son. It’s pretty good and definitely typical Cash, although I’d argue that it doesn’t really show us a side of him that we haven’t already seen elsewhere.

Still, there was a lot to love here, and if you’re already a Johnny Cash fan then you’re sure to enjoy this one. It was a nice little find for me, especially for 50p in a charity shop, and it’ll definitely become
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Johnny Cash, born J. R. Cash, also known as "The Man in Black", was a multiple Grammy Award-winning American country singer-songwriter. Cash is widely considered to be one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century.

Cash was known for his deep, distinctive voice, his trademark dark clothing which earned him his nickname, the boom-chick-a-boom or "freight train" sound of his Tenn

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