• Evangeline Lawson

Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts (A Review)

Of lockdown, hunger time & the blackened flower—

Ain't nothing worth knowing. Prison becomes home;

The cell: a catacomb that cages & the metronome

Tracking the years that eclipse you. History authors

Your death, throws you into that din of lost hours.


~ "House of Unending" from Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts


I appreciate the art of storytelling, but when poems are presented as compelling extensions of a much deeper and larger story, I'm pretty much hooked.


If you are not familiar with the actual life of Reginald Dwayne Betts, I encourage you to look into it for yourselves. But in short, he was tried as an adult for a crime he committed as a teenager and sentenced to nine years in prison. Upon his release, he used his voice not only as a writer, but as an activist for improved literacy programs for those who are incarcerated.


Felon is a collection of poems that tell his story— crafted both unstructured and at times surprisingly traditional. Some are dedications. Others, beautifully executed sonnets, but completely transparent. Felon examines the intersections of Betts' life in a way that offers insight into a unique human experience, but also arouses empathy. It is powerful but also revealing those innermost feelings, that are at times conflicting. Even for those of us who have never personally experienced incarceration, but find ourselves grappling with the contradictions that arise from simply existing. #nationalpoetrymonth

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