Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. His latest collection of poems, Felon, won the 2020 American Book Award and NAACP Image Award. A recent collaboration with visual artist Titus Kaphar lead to The Redaction an exhibition of prints at MoMA PS1. Drawing inspiration and source material from lawsuits filed by the Civil Rights Corps (CRC) on behalf of people incarcerated because of an inability to pay court fines and fees, The Redaction features poetry by Betts in combination with Kaphar’s etched portraits of incarcerated individuals. Together, Betts’s poems and Kaphar’s printed portraits blend the voices of poet and artist with those of the plaintiffs and prosecutors, reclaiming these lost narratives and drawing attention to some of the many individuals whose lives have been impacted by mass incarceration.
Named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow, 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 NEA Fellow, Betts poetry has been long praised. His writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, and New America Fellowship. Betts has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, as well as being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, The Travis Smiley Show and several other national shows. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Fellow; and, a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was awarded the Israel H. Perez Prize for best student note or comment appearing in the Yale Law Journal. He is a Ph. D. in Law candidate at Yale and as a Liman Fellow, he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office.
Photo credit: Mamadi Doumbouya