Bastards of the Reagan Era by Reginald Dwayne Betts is the winner of the 2016 PEN New England Award in Poetry and the winner of the 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year for Poetry, was shortlisted for the 2016 PEN Open Book Award, made Library Journal’s “Best Books 2015: Poetry” list, and is a finalist for the Firecracker Award in Poetry, a finalist for the Wheatley Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the National Council on Crime & Delinquency’s (NCCD) 2016 Media for a Just Society Award.
Bastards of the Reagan Era
Reginald Dwayne Betts
The poet Raymond Patterson once asked “But who can conceive / Of cities lost in a blackman?” That’s what these poems are about: what does it mean to be nearly broken by something you love? Bastards of the Reagan Era is a challenge, a confrontation of the hard realities that frame America. These poems question an incongruous America: “A black boy says sorbet / is one thing—a black boy says get the fuck out the car is quite another.” 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.”
“For the City That Nearly Broke Me”, from Bastards of the Reagan Era:
Stress this: the lit end of anything will burn you. & that is just just a slick way of saying: running will never save you. This man's first son caved, fell to the pressure, to the barrel's indent against his temple. A body given back to asphalt. Stress this: we never gave a fuck, not 'bout
bullet didn’t split
the air, but split those
edged-up, precise hairs
of his caesar, to save
the man the burden
of years fearing death.