Shahid Reads His Own Palm

In this startling first book, Betts voices the struggle for self-actualization through the literal confines of the prison system. Freedom is something both desired and feared in this deeply moving collection, which fixates on the elusive quality of time and, often, the fine line between desire and violence. In "Prison," Betts writes:

    Prison the sinner's bouquet, house of shredded & torn
          Dear John letters, upended grave of names, moon
          Black kiss of a pistol's flat side, time blueborn
    & threaded into a curse...

Whether from within the locative borders of a small cell or the formal rigidity of the ghazal (the form that notably begins and ends this collection), these poems in turn sear and moan, are impossibly restless and at times starkly silent.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, fall 2010, issue 39.