“Fierce, lyrical and unsparing, the poems in Bastards of the Reagan Era is a haunting and harrowing book that addresses, through the power of poetry, the trials of coming of... [continued in Reviews below]”—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Bastards of the Reagan Era challenges and confronts many of the difficult realities that frame America
Bastards of the Reagan Era is a challenge, confronting realities that frame an America often made invisible. Within these poems, we see the city as distant lover, we hear “the sound that comes from all / the hurt & want that leads a man to turn his back to the world.” We see that and we see each reason why we return to what pains us.
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Reviews / Endorsements
"Fierce, lyrical and unsparing, the poems in Bastards of the Reagan Era is a haunting and harrowing book that addresses, through the power of poetry, the trials of coming of age during an era in which unarmed black men and boys are dying at the hands of police officers, and millions are incarcerated by a justice system that turns people into statistics and warps their lives and hopes."—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“The redemption [Betts] has found in wrestling, fearlessly, with the destructive decisions . . . of his generation’s trials is mesmerizing and beautiful in the language and rhythms of his pen.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“Patriarchal sentiment is not the reason Reginald Betts begins Bastards of the Reagan Era with a heart-wrenching praise song to his sons, Miles and Micah. He is celebrating the singular occasion of their continued breath. In this bitter, unflinching and triumphant work, Betts mercilessly probes the soul of the soulless machine charged with the disappearing and dismantling of black men's lives. This crisp assemblage of perseverance and loss relentlessly pummels the status quo, poems building each upon the other until the desolate inevitability of the narrative both enervates and empowers the reader. The poet himself warns, 'when I sing this awful tale, there is more than a dead black man in the center.'”—Patricia Smith
“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.”—Mark Osler
Bastards of the Reagan Era by Reginald Dwayne Betts, 978-1935536659. "This knocked the air out of my lungs and pumped me full and then killed me. It is beautiful and devastating and important."—Nathalie Kirsch, Harvard Bookstore
From the Book:
Dark Alliance. Crack smoke over this backdrop:
CIA seal, Contras. So much heavy weight.
How birds fly? How millions turn into guerrilla props:
AK-47s, & all else. White smoke. Rocks. The dead & dying.
Gary Webb's tale of two horrors: Contra & crack.
- Library Journal, Best Books, 2015 Commendation
Winner of the PEN New England, poetry
Winner of the National Council on Crime & Delinquency Media for a Just Society Award
REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS’S Shahid Reads His Own Palm won the Beatrice Hawley Award. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, received the 2010 NAACP Image Award for nonfiction. He is a Yale Law student.