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Yrsa Daley-Ward – Poet

A new poet, and someone to keep on the radar with her new release
“bone”.

It isn’t that dad doesn’t love you or your brother
said Mum, greasing up our ashy legs with Vaseline
Or that your auntie Amy’s a man stealing back-stabbing, cheating bitch
who can’t keep a man so she has to steal somebody else’s.
We just don’t see eye to eye on much, that’s all
and he wouldn’t stop eating cashew nuts in bed

It’s not that you mother and I hate each other
said Dad, pushing a crumpled ten pound note into my chinos pocket
…or that I forgot about your birthday
but I need time to think now. I’m moving in with Amy
and anyway, your mum cooks with too much salt.

It wasn’t so much an affair, you understand
said Auntie Amy, lacing up my brothers small Nike trainers
and picking out my knots with the wooden comb shaped like a fist
but a meeting of minds outside of our respective vows
And bodies, muttered mum, when I told her later.
Two faced tramp. What a joke.
Don’t tell anyone I said that.
Don’t tell anyone I said that.

It’s not as though your mums exactly an angel, either
said dad with blood red eyes
and a pulsing vein in his forehead
finishing the last of his whisky
and auntie Amy hissed, Easy Winston, you’ve had enough
and dad said, Don’t tell me what to do
not even my wife yet, and you think you know it all.

It not that your family are going to hell, necessarily
said grandma, boiling up the green banana, yam and dumpling
and grating the coconut onto the rice and peas
They must just accept Jesus Christ into their lives
and put away the drink and sin and all the lies.
Now go and wash your hands and set the table.
Don’t worry, child.
We’ll pray for them tonight.

 
 

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What Makes a Black Man, “A Black Man”

Crystal Valentine, Poetess…

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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From Prison to Poet

This is the uplifting story of one Reginald Dwayne Betts Jr., a stupid mistake, and a decision to move forward.

Yes, One Book Can Change Your Life, Even In Prison

A book of black poetry slides under a cell door in solitary confinement. And it changes everything.

Reginald Dwayne Betts Jr. goes by the name Dwayne. But for the majority of the nine years he spent in prison, he gave himself the name Shahid. It means “the witness” in Arabic.

At 16, Betts pled guilty to carjacking in Virginia and was in prison until he was 24. For many years, cultivating his identity — hard stuff for any teenager — was a mostly solitary endeavor. Books, and later poetry, became his teacher, his classroom and his peer.

“I read anything I could find. Poetry makes you reflect. Joseph Brodsky once wrote: ‘I have braved, for want of wild beasts, steel cages.’ That shit says everything that I would ever want to say about mass incarceration,” he told The Huffington Post in an interview last week.

In the decade since his release from prison, Betts, now 34, has published an award-winningmemoir about coming of age in prison, written two books of poetry, received undergraduate and MFA degrees and is currently in his final year at Yale Law School.

His upcoming book of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, will be released in October.

Learning has always been deeply important to Betts. He dreamed of playing point guard at Georgia Tech and becoming an engineer. He says numbers came easily to him and that as he grew, the two most important things to him were math and philosophy.

He started hanging out with a bad crew in his hometown of Suitland, Maryland and sneaking out of class at 16. At the time, he was taking a full load of challenging classes, including Physics, French 4 and AP U.S. History.

Everything changed on December 7, 1996. On a visit to the Springfield Mall in suburban Virginia about 20 miles from their hometown, Betts and a friend came across a man asleep in his car in the parking lot. They impulsively carjacked him and took off on what would prove to be one of the quickest roads to stalling one’s life as a teen.

At the time, carjacking in Virginia carried a maximum penalty of life in prison and the state had done away with parole. On December 8, one day after the carjacking, Betts stood before a judge and was charged with six felonies and nine years in prison.

The presiding judge had wise words for Betts, who recalled what he was told in a 2010 New Yorker article. The words are seared in his mind: “I don’t have any illusions that the penitentiary is going to help you, but you can get something out of it if you want to,” the judge said to the 16-year-old.

Due to lack of space for incoming juveniles, Betts was thrown into solitary confinement without a mattress, blanket or pillow. When he was pulled out 10 days later and moved to his cell block, Betts carried the only thing he had shown up with: a book by James Baldwin.

Betts poured himself into reading. He turned page after page of The Confessions of Nat Turner, Go Tell It on the Mountain and A Lesson Before Dying. He read George Orwell and every book by Charles Dickens. He inhaled classics like Of Mice and Men, The Grapes Of Wrath and The Jungle. He read the philosophy of Max Weber, Franz Fanon and C.L.R. James.…The Rest Here…

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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