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April 20, 2013

Poetry helps ex-convict overcome battles

ANDERSON, Ind. — Words have helped save Michael A. Pierce.

He pieces them together into poetry and discovers a sense of salvation, following years of his drug and alcohol abuse and serving prison time for selling cocaine.

“Poetry connects my spirit,” said Pierce, an Anderson native living in Nashville, Tenn. “When I was in prison, I wrote 2,000 poems. It was my escape. It always relieved me.”

He has pieced together his words now into three self-published works, including his recent 38-page collection “Praying Poems.”

In its introduction, he praises the source of his writing: “I took a deep look inside my soul and wrote these as carefully as I could to write what God was saying. In response, He blessed me with a collection that is more touching than anything that I could write on my own.”

At 54, the Anderson High School dropout prefers to simply be known by his initials and three periods: MAP...

“Those dots represent the ones between every initial. I just prefer to put them at the end.”

A three-letter/three-dot combination is perhaps the easiest signature for a man who has been a drug dealer, user, convict and married four times.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he started selling marijuana but moved into other illegal drugs including cocaine. In 2001, he sold coke to an  informant. He was sentenced to 16 years, released in 2005 and is on probation through 2016. He said he hasn’t tried cocaine since 2005.

When told last year he should check into a rehab program to stem his drinking, he balked having gone through recovery programs.

“That scared me. I didn’t want to repeat the same cycles. I’m afraid I’ll be doing the same thing, drinking and getting into pot. I said this has to got to stop.

“So on Oct. 19, I checked into recovery,” he said. “I’ve done pretty well. ... The hardest thing I do right now on my body is smoke cigarettes.”

Pierce came back to Anderson a few weeks ago to attend the funeral of his brother, Richard. That week, the long-haired, hippie-looking MAP was wearing a sling on his right arm after injuring a rotator cuff.

 “I don’t know how I did it. I woke up one morning and it was sore.”

In Nashville, as if to help with recovery, Pierce reads his work at poetry gatherings at Portland Brew East, a coffee shop. His writing, unlike more abstract poems typically heard at readings, praise Pierce’s Lord. However, fellow poets may not care to hear his devotionals.

“I’m not getting good response at poetry readings,” he acknowledged. Yet Pierce takes strength from positive comments, like that from a friend who told him his latest works are akin to the Book of Psalms.

It took him five weeks to compose the new collection. None of it may have been possible without his incarceration.

“I didn’t learn anything about computers until I went to prison in 2001. Of course, they didn’t let me do the Internet.”

Anderson friend Don McAllister, author of “The Pencil Man,” appreciates Pierce’s writing.

“I first met Michael Alan Pierce, or MAP as I know him, on the ‘If you grew up in Anderson, Indiana’ facebook site.”

Pierce asked McAllister to review his poetry.

“I wasn’t too sure of what I would see. High school English was not his best subject. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I knew only an honest review would be fair.

“When I read his samples I was pleasantly stunned.  I thought, “Wow, this man is a writer!”  MAP has that little twist of humor and that plaintive need for repentance that we all feel from time to time.  That’s because his words are genuine and from the heart.

“Some of the choices Mike made in his life cost him dearly, but they have also exposed him to life situations the average person will never see.  It gives him a wealth of knowledge that has given him more power to write,” said McAllister, who  writes a monthly column detailing accounts by war veterans for The Herald Bulletin.

Pierce’s girlfriend, Laurel McManus, also notices a different mood when Pierce is writing.

“When MAP  is writing he is all consumed and excited.  His enthusiasm is catching and I find myself getting caught up in the excitement of expressing emotions and stories in the written word.  

She added, “He is more analytical now that he has been straight and sober and taken on writing about his life.”

Pierce has also started a recovery group through facebook, “Recovery is Good.” He has 100 members. To obtain one of his books, contact him at mapishere@hotmail.com. His facebook page can be found by searching “Praying Poems” and “Pierce.”

“Praying Poiems” can be ordered for $10, which includes shipping, from Pierece at 912 Spain Avenue, Nashville, Tenn. 37216

As he talks, Pierce displays a sense of optimism, self-deprecation and honesty. He acknowledges he uses the power of poetry to help fight inner conflicts.

 “There’s a battle brewing between my flesh and spirit. I mean, my spirit gets weak and my flesh gets stronger. It depends on what I feed my spirit.”

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