I work at a criminal justice non profit and day in day out I try to make the criminal justice system in New York City a little smaller, a little fairer, a little more humane. That work can often be technical, and too often, we put distance between ourselves and the human costs of mass incarceration. This slim book of poetry did a lot to erase that distance for me. This book centers the people affected by mass incarceration, yes the felon of the title, but also the felon’s mother, his lover, his children.
I like my poetry straight, keep the opacity of high modernism for the graduate seminar, give me the visceral, honest, real feelings of poetry like Betts. A must read for anyone who wants to get a bit closer to understanding what we do to people, and communities, when we lock people in cages.