Paperback Price: $15.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-882295-81-4

Selected Poem

Two Nightmares

By moonglow, by the way silver flits from there to here, from past where our eyes can see to here where we want to hide our eyes, & by the lit end of a Newport, the tobacco sparked & dusting the air with smoke, a man slumps into the door he can’t open. Every door is a door to somewhere, & all the strength in his back wants to get him somewhere else, away from the clank of a tray slot signaling chow time. His name is another tedium, a door that for some man opens the door to the night that birthed this mad riot of cuffs and apologies, the night a gun on safety made a man dump his breakfast and every bit of the tuna on rye he had for lunch into his boxers. Fear is a beast. & look now, the two men tied to doors,one the unnamed can’t open, the other a door the one called victim can’t close.

Shahid Reads His Own Palm

“Betts doesn’t just have a powerful story to tell. He is a true poet who can write a ghazal that sings, howls, rhymes, and resonates in memory years after it was first read.”
—Jericho Brown, On the Seawall

“…these poems in turn sear and moan, are impossibly restless and at times starkly silent.”
American Poet

“There’s an authority in Betts’s voice that carries us, and his voice is governed by boldness and consonance.”
Devil’s Lake

“…restrained though fierce talent…surprising and emotionally resonant…”
Publishers Weekly

“American prisons are the new slave ships for Betts. The image of a black man in chains and cuffs is an image that for many is much to contemplate. Here in this disturbing book of poetry Shahid Reads His Own Palm, Reginal Dwayne Betts takes us back into the whole Afro-American Diaspora. A latter day Paul D, in ‘yesterdays yoked’—the lid is rusted solid on the tragedy that is the Black man and women’s experience in the new world.”
Stride Magazine

“This book is disturbing. Technically it is solid and very American in shape. Its themes are clear, to the point, and very accurate. Alienation and deconstruction of self fill almost every line.”
New Pages

“…Betts allows his readers to become engulfed in the minds and experiences of different men that have been imprisoned and their perceptions of judgments imposed upon them from the outside world. The poems, in often graphic detail, explain the chilling truths of prison lives weighed by lost dreams and regret.”

“The ‘I’ of these poems I appreciate for his emotionally balanced tone, so as not to fetishize (glorify or denigrate) the incarcerated, or give us spectacle and sentimentality. The words which compose these lines are well-considered. The lines which compose these poems are clean, even lithe. They give space, or open themselves up to the reader without pandering or relying on cliche.”
—Barbara Jane Reyes

“Inside silence there is a sliver of light that is the seed of the music of these poems, the origin of a melodic range we seldom see in a poet’s first collection. These melodies move in a harmonic range affirming human struggle with an extraordinary elegance. This collection of song is definite evidence of the gift.”
—Afaa Michael Weaver

“Dwayne Betts’ poems ―from the first moment I encountered them ―read like revelation. This poet has entered the fire and walked out with actual light inside him. These poems ―clear, muscular, musical ―are what the light says. I’ve waited for this book for years!”
―Marie Howe

“These fierce and skillful poems are for our time and place the cry of Blake’s London and of his Auguries of Innocence: A dog starv’d at his master’s gate/ Predicts the ruin of the state. Here is a brother at his brother’s gate. Shahid. A witness. Here, as C.D. Wright has said, is our One Big Self.”
—Jean Valentine

  1. Satya Pattanaik February 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Does ‘Shahid’ refers here to the late poet Agha Shahid Ali ? What’s the connection ?

    • Jayy April 20, 2016 at 9:07 am

      ‘Shahid’ refers to the the name that he gave himself in prison, it means witness in Arabic. The way he sees it is ” I had the opportunity to witness how men ruin themselves and say something about it. So every time people called me “Shahid,” it just reminded me that I was a writer, I was a witness.”


  1. Dwayne Betts: Coming of Age in Prison | OF NOTE magazine - January 21, 2015

    […] of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison and a poetry collection, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, one year later. He forged ahead with teaching positions and prestigious fellowships at The […]

  2. Behind the Mic: Elizabeth Avecedo - February 28, 2015

    […] with Copper Canyon and she is an absolute beast on the page. Also, Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Shahid Reads His Own Palm. I look to fierce and fearless and generous writers and these two poets provide that time and […]