Felon: Poems


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Felon tells the story of the effects of incarceration in fierce, dazzling poems—canvassing a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and grace—and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the funk of post-incarceration existence and examines prison not as a static space, but as a force that enacts pressure throughout a person’s life.

The poems move between traditional and newfound forms with power and agility—from revolutionary found poems created by redacting court documents to the astonishing crown of sonnets that serves as the volume’s radiant conclusion. Drawing inspiration from lawsuits filed on behalf of the incarcerated, the redaction poems focus on the ways we exploit and erase the poor and imprisoned from public consciousness. Traditionally, redaction erases what is top secret; in Felon, Betts redacts what is superfluous, bringing into focus the profound failures of the criminal justice system and the inadequacy of the labels it generates.

Challenging the complexities of language, Betts animates what it means to be a "felon."

Join New America's Fellows Program for a reading and discussion with Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Felon: Poems, and Clint Smith, 2020 Emerson Fellow and author of Counting Descent.

Registration to begin at 12:00 PM; conversation begins at 12:30 PM.

Lunch will be served.


Reginald Dwayne Betts, @dwaynebetts
2018 Emerson Fellow, New America
Author, Felon: Poems

Clint Smith, @ClintSmithIII
2020 Emerson Fellow, New America
Author, Counting Descent

Copies of Felon: Poems will be available for purchase through our bookselling partner Solid State Books, and a book signing will follow the discussion.