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On Sundays, We Read Poetry

Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I highlight one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.


The word 'fierce' gets used to describe the work of Reginald Dwayne Betts, and it fits, but I worry about reducing his brilliance to ferocity. There is a pulse in his words, but it is a rhythmic and emotional complexity, anything but one-note. Take, for example, this excerpt from "If Absence Was the Source of Silence," (found in the collection Felon) starting about halfway through to the end:

From me, my sons will hear a story about

how hands like theirs, like mine, made

something wretched of the memories

of women we love or don't know at all. This

is true. & there is a map to take us to

all that hurt. Some silence saying it all. But

let's say the world is ours. On that day

all the silenced tongues would have

speak, without fear or being doubted,

of the cars & hellos that became dungeons,

of friends who became the darkness

that drowns all until only rage & sadness

remain. & maybe after, we can build

memory that does not demand silence;

all the things that happen now, as if

a part of being, would not be --

& my son's lives would be carved

out of days in which their hands

& bodies do not suggest weapons,

days where all their mothers

& sisters can walk down any street

in this world with the freedom

that comes from knowing

you will be safe, after dusk or during

those moments just before dawn

unlike today, & yesterday, & now,

when, the quiet & what might ruin

it, is the threat that circles.

Betts's story is fascinating, and if you haven't yet discovered him, let me urge you to learn more. This video is one place to start. Then, take a look at the Freedom Reads project (formerly the Million Book Project) which he launched. And then come back to Felon. It will not disappoint.


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