Bastards of the Reagan Era (Reginald Dwayne Betts)

U.S.A. / 2015

Photograph via Gesi Schilling, Poetry Foundation "& still, I want to stop & embrace my brother, to hold him close & pause to inhale the scent of prison, to tell him what I smell, what I inhale, is still the body of a man.& still, I want to stop & embrace my brother, to hold him close & pause to inhale the scent of prison, to tell him what I smell, what I inhale, is still the body of a man." — "What We Know Of Horses" 

Photograph via Gesi Schilling, Poetry Foundation

"& still, I want to stop & embrace
my brother, to hold him close
& pause to inhale the scent of prison,
to tell him what I smell, what I inhale,
is still the body of a man.& still, I want to stop & embrace
my brother, to hold him close
& pause to inhale the scent of prison,
to tell him what I smell, what I inhale,
is still the body of a man." — "
What We Know Of Horses" 

I love Reginald Dwayne Betts' poetry. I've previously featured his beautiful and devastating poem, "When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving." I didn't know much about Betts as a poet, but I just came across a stunning profile of him on NPR. What a life this man has lived. At 16, he was charged as an adult and sent to prison for eight years for a carjacking. He even spent a whole year in solitary confinement. While in prison, he used books to escape and grew into a poet. He was released in 2005, and is currently studying at Yale Law School. He's a fabulous poet, and people are really enjoying this collection, which was nominated for the PEN/Open Book Award. Publisher's Weekly called it "a devastatingly beautiful collection that calls out to young black men lost to the pitfalls of urban America." Betts says Bastards of the Reagan Era was inspired by "This notion that whole sort of generation of young people were bastards of an era, of the Reagan era. I think about my own life, I think about the life of people that's close to me, and I just recognize that we were ... we were just lost — lost in time, we were lost in space, and we were struggling to find, I think, a sense of who we were."