Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts


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 postincarceration existence and examines prison not as a static space, but as a force that enacts pressure thro...

Details Felon

Release DateOct 15th, 2019
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenrePoetry, Race

Reviews Felon

  • Roxane
    Outstanding poems about incarceration and how a man can still feel like he is in a cage as he walks free. The range here is impressive. There is a real honesty here of a man who is looking into himself without blinking. At times, it is uncomfortable, but in a good way. The redacted poems about bail injustice are particularly powerful but really, the collection as individual poems and as a whole, is incredibly moving, nuanced, and compelling.
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    These poems tell the truth about how prison changes you, how it never leaves you, and what relationships are like afterward, particularly if you are also black and recently incarcerated. It is its own form of PTSD.This collection came out from W.W. Norton on October 15th.
  • Craig Werner
    This will almost certainly be my choice for best poetry volume for 2019. Betts has written powerfully of his experience in and after prison--he wound up incarcerated as a result of a dumb youthful mistake that probably wouldn't have landed an affluent and/or white kid in jail. After his release, he pursued a law degree and has now established himself as both a writer and a lawyer.Which, as Felon makes crystal clear, doesn't mean his life is anyth...
  • Jeimy
    These poems are raw and best appreciated listening to the audiobook which is read by the author.
  • Emmkay
    Betts was incarcerated for years after participating in a carjacking as a teen. He is now a Yale law graduate and an accomplished poet, whose work speaks to the complex realities of race, gender, and mass incarceration. His work feels very masculine in tone, the relationship to self and others infused with the effects of (state and personal) violence, the relationship with an absent father, and frequent mention of whiskey. These were powerful poe...
  • Mark
    “This is the brick & mortar of the Americathat murdered Tamir & may stalk the laughterin my backseat. I am a father drivinghis Black sons to school & the deathof a Black boy rides shotgun & thiscould be a funeral procession. The Deatha silent thing in the air, unmentioned-because mentioning death invites taboo...”“Lost in what's gone. Reinventing myself with lies:I walk these streets, ruined by what I hide.Jesus died for somebody's sins, bu...
  • chantel nouseforaname
    You can feel the suffocation.. the ways that America, it's systemic injustice coupled with one's own personal mistakes can create a lack of space around a black man. I loved these poems. Traumatic. Eye-opening. We're fortunate that in his personal space, Reginald has found words. He is a master wordsmith. You can feel his truths liberating himself and others through each page. He takes you through a range of his thoughts and emotions yet stokes t...
  • Ace Boggess
    This collection is as close to perfect as any on this subject that I can imagine. The themes are personal to me. The writing is beautiful and disturbing. Many of the poems take on subjects (namely prison and life after prison) that I've been trying to write about for years, but they do it so much better. Some of these are poems I wish I had written.Throughout the book, both the language and insight shared are moving, like in this opening of the p...
  • Chanice HG
    A very powerful, lyrical look at incarceration—the poems tackle the subject from many angles, through many forms. The redacted poems, made from real lawsuits, were among some of the strongest, adding to the weight these poems carry. Betts uses beautiful language & lines to describe something that can’t be called such.
  • Iva Velickovic
    thought-provoking, sometimes jarring, often melodic. some of the most effective poems for me, post- law school, were those that redacted cases--an important reminder that, under all the legalese, there are real, devastating, human lives.
  • Benja
    one of my favorite poets collections ever
  • Mike
    A confession begins when I walked Black out of that parking lot.A confession began when I, without combing my hair, dressedFor a day that would find me walking out of that parking lot.
  • Tracy
    I urge you to hear Betts read if you can. The poems in Felon do many things, including linger in loss and sadness. With our justice system, I'm not sure it could be any other way.A strong review: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...
  • Elliot
  • Glennys Egan
    I read this slowly, a poem or two each evening over a few weeks. It was needed to absorb the stories, confessions, tributes contained in these. A deeply moving collection. The redaction pieces are especially powerful.
  • Elle
    This book should be required reading for us all. I started the book and had to stop reflect. I wanted to savory every word of the book, and now that I have finished a part of me is looking forward to engaging it again. There is a heaviness to the book and makes reading it require that the reader bring something to the reading. The words and images linger in a way that makes one wonder what kind of country are we living in. Thank you, Mr. Betts, f...
  • Siobhain
    Wow. Wow. Wow. This is by far the best poetry collection I have ever read, EVER. I love Betts’s poetry in general, but damn this collection is phenomenal. I had my reading students read, “Ghazal,” “Parking Lot,” “Parking Lot, too,” and “Essay on Reentry” all three poems, and almost all of my students cried or teared up, and I did, as well. An incisive, moving, and thoughtful poetry collection on incarceration, being black in Ame...
  • Shelby S
    A raw and real view of life before, during and after incarceration. This would serve as a great companion text to Orange is the New Black, either the show or the book. I enjoyed several of the men’s style of writing. Though I do like blackout poetry, I didn’t really like the way they did their “redaction” poems. Otherwise a pretty good read.
  • Jack Jones Literary Arts
  • Jan Ayers
    Now I have to read everything he has written....this collection is that good.
  • Rachel
    I've read some incredible poetry this year but Felon has to be my favorite. Especially the redaction poems - brilliant.
  • Jene
    If I could give 5 stars to some I would - the redacted poems about bail injustice are exceptionally powerful.
  • Anastacia
    Can't relate to the way it's written
  • Hadi
    Enjoyed this collection immensely, especially the found poetry in the legal decisions. Everything poetry should be.
  • kasia
    It is rare that you so poignantly feel another person’s vulnerability, and it’s a very powerful thing.
  • Zach
    Stop sending kids to prison for extended sentences without education, rehabilitation, or both. Kids = anyone under 25.
  • Stephanie
    One of the best books of poetry I’ve read in a long time. Read it.
  • Courtney
    3.5 stars
  • Michael
    Intense, beautiful, haunted work, willing to stare unflinchingly into the depths of its own soul.