Tuesday, April 05, 2016

 

Tomorrow: Come see Reginald Dwayne Betts at UST!

Four years ago, I got a message from Reginald Dwayne Betts. He told me he was writing a poem about crack, and wanted to talk to me. He was working at Harvard, and I was going there in a few weeks, so we arranged to meet.

It was a remarkable meeting, and his story is equally remarkable:

At the age of 16, Reginald Dwayne Betts and a friend carjacked a man who had fallen asleep in his car at a mall. Betts was charged as an adult and spent more than eight years in prison, where he completed high school and began reading and writing poetry. Today, Betts is a student at Yale Law School and is the author of a memoir and two books of poetry.

His memior, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Avery/Penguin, 2009), was awarded the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His books of poetry are Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James, 2010) and Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015). Betts is a 2010 Soros Justice Fellow, 2011 Radcliffe Fellow, and 2012 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. In 2012, Betts was appointed to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Obama. He is a graduate of Prince George’s Community College, the University of Maryland and the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College.


His latest book of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, is a startling volume. He asked me to blurb it, and this is what I said: "Dwayne Betts describes my field, criminal law, as 'the business of human tragedy.' He's right. In Bastards of the Reagan Era, Betts does a remarkable job of describing the precise shape of that tragedy. It comes at the right moment, too, as many Americans are straining to see something beyond 'guilty' and 'prisoner' when they look at criminal law. Betts is a great poet, and a witness to truths that have for too long been shrouded in media fables and easy politics.”

Tomorrow, he will be reading from the book and talking to us at UST law school-- Room 235 from 12:30 to 1:30. It is free, and all are welcome!


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