... searing ... What does not fail is the language Betts sends prismatically through his experience, rendering the entire spectrum of the prison-industrial complex visible ... These poems incise into the page the wounds of prison experience ... [Betts'] view is nuanced, complicated by his experience as a public defender and as a father as well as by the years inside ... Betts spares no one in his critique, least of all himself ... That critique, having largely to do with the criminalization of poverty, charges these poems and flows through them, energizing their lyric force ... One cannot leave this book without further awareness of our deeply unequal justice system, the abuses of money bail, and the legal sleight of hand that allows children to be sentenced as adults, despite their lack of capacity for equal culpability ... This is a powerful work of lyric art. It is also a tour de force indictment of the carceral industrial state.
... shows how poems can be enlisted to radically disrupt narrative ... Betts’s poems about fatherhood [are] some of the most powerful I’ve read ... The black bars of redacted text, which usually suggest narrative withheld, here reveal its true contours... Autobiography functions in this book in fascinating, risky ways ... For Betts, the way to expression passes through such troubled silences.
The poems vividly chronicle how the dehumanizing experience of incarceration doesn’t end with a clean slate but with another long struggle on the outside, one that often includes homelessness, drug abuse and underemployment ... Betts writes masterfully, in various forms. He also illustrates the transformative power of love.