4 September, 2012

A Ruth Lilly Fellow Reflects

I am over at the Huffington Post talking to Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was named a Ruth Lilly Fellow for 2012. You can read the full interview here. Below, a taste:

RF: You were an avid reader before you went to prison but you became a writer while you were there. As you continue your activism while also writing both poetry and prose, do you find that the narrative of social-justice pervades both forms? Do you ever actively choose to avoid those issues? Or do you feel that everything we have to say, so long as it is about our place in the world, must necessarily comment on the justice or lack thereof within it?

RDB: I think I just write what I’m focusing on, what is troubling me, what I want to think more about. In the past I haven’t tried to confront certain issues with the justice system directly in poetry — write poems that deal with juvenile certification, or the drug trade, etc. Now though, I feel like for the poems to be true to me they have to work those ideas in, because I know to do that, I’ll end up challenging myself as a writer. I’ll end up figuring out how to be poetic and not dogmatic, or how to be both. So many of the decisions that writers make now seem a product of a writing community — I mean seem a product of imagining a writing communities response to that work. I think about this more, how to avoid this and how to write, not necessarily what I want to read, but work that makes people confront real tangible things in the world, as well as the fancy, as well as that personal “I” that’s about so much emotion but so little of the weight of what brings leads a young man to have downcast eyes.

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.