There are poets in the most unlikely places. Galveston attorney David Cowen negotiates the legal world by day and composes poetry by night.
He wrote his first poem at age 11. A trial attorney by trade, Cowen is the author of four books and two volumes of poetry. His latest, “The Seven Yards of Sorrow,” is a collection of historical Galveston cemetery poems.
Cowen’s inspiration for the book began years ago when he handled a lawsuit over the rights of a grave site in the Galveston Old City Cemetery on Broadway. He visited the grave site to photograph it for use in court. While he was there he realized from looking at the headstones, there was an overwhelming amount of history of so many souls hidden behind the black iron grates and white walls in the center of the city. So, he molded the lives of lost souls into chilling historical stories that linger in the city’s memory.
The city’s founders decided they needed a more practical method of burying their dead. Previous attempts to bury loved ones in dunes outside of town resulted in bodies being exposed and washed up on shore after strong storms.
The cemetery, now between 40th and 43rd streets in Galveston, was then on the outskirts of town. After the 1900 Storm, Galveston was raised up between 11 and 15.6 feet. The Old City Cemetery also was raised. If you had no living relatives with sufficient money to pay to raise your body, its stone or crypt, you were buried underneath other graves.
Once raised, a new level of grave sites was opened. Later in the 1930s, a third layer was installed and in parts of the cemetery there are three levels of graves.
There are seven distinct cemeteries inside the walls, some related to specific religions and one being a paupers’ field for a time. Included were victims of the 1900 Storm, veterans and heroes of wars, victims of fevers, murder victims, murderers, statesmen and other unsavory individuals. Soldiers who died in Civil War battles in Galveston are also interred in the yards.
Cowen has written three poetry anthologies: “Sixth and Adams,” “The Madness of Empty Spaces,” which features a Galveston ghost, and “The Seven Yards of Sorrow.” He also edited the Horror Writers Association Horror Poetry Showcase, Volumes III and IV.
Cowen, president of Gulf Coast Poets, will read selected poems from his anthology, accompanied by local poets at 7 p.m. today at the Friendswood Public Library, 416 S. Friendswood Drive, in Friendswood. For more information, call 281-482-7135.