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This Book Will Change Your Life - {#289-128} by the Randall Gavin Horton.

· Randall Gavin Horton,Books,289 128,Poetry,Prison
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"What's great about poetry is it's waiting for you and it can tell you a lot about where we're at and what's next." -Kevin Young, Chicago Tribune, September 6, 2020

Look, I know poetry is waiting for me, it's just that I don't seek it out often enough. Poetry is kind of enough to keep finding me, however, most recently in the form of {#289-128} by the Randall Gavin Horton. The above quote came to my attention as I was reading {#289-128} and preparing to interview Randall for This Podcast Will Change Your Life (and more on that soon, yo, promise). The poems are gritty, precise, staccato slaps, evocative and rich. They are also about incarceration. How the institution itself is part of the American narrative. About how we go to prison and why, and what it looks like once were there, though more specifically, about why black men go to prison and how that happens. Even then though, these poems are really about how one finds one self and their voice when incarcerated, and how they have no intention being known for just that: someone who is or was once in jail. The prisoner is not merely a prisoner while in prison. That somehow being prisoner now defines their shape and form and sole idenitity. They were someone before they got there and they will be after they leave as well. This collection, as stated right on the cover, also makes it clear that "a prison doesn't necessarily have to be a physical structure," and somewhere in the midst of all this I kept thinking about how little most of us know about the experience of being a prisoner, but also how so many celebrities seem to keep saying that surviving COVID, and not the disease per se, but the lockdown, is like being in prison. I believe they feel as if they're suffering. It's also true that this type of commentary does not only belong to the domain of celebrities. Regardless, it feels so out of touch with what prison actually is. As does most everything those of means have been saying and doing during the pandemic. How they live and how we live has never felt farter apart. Still, this is about the incarcerated and how one is a commodity when imprisoned (something Randall speaks to on the podcast), how dehumanizing it is and how limiting oneself by choice, even when one is required to do so, is a lot different than having your choices taken from you. Someone might say, hey man, these people committed crimes, they're being punished, of course their choices are being taken away from them. To that I reply, fine, no argument. I'm really not trying to make a statement about what prison ought to be (though I'm happy to discuss it). I am interested though in what prison is, and to quote Young, "where we're at," especially during a time when so much about law enforcement and the justice system feels so unjust. What's next then? It remains to be seen, but if we look to history, we know that from great strife and chaos, beauty and art tend to emerge, and that when the pendulum of justice swings next, and it will, change will happen. As always though, it is the artists who help us make sense of what we're seeing and what we don't understand. Providing shape and language for us to learn from and build-on. Horton's poetry is the prism and guide for we what need now, so tomorrow can look like something else. Ideally something better and more empathic. Will his poetry change your life? Of course it will. Will it change the world? It might. As long as we ensure its out there to be consumed.