When Jean Valentine died on Dec. 29, 2020, America misplaced considered one of its most beneficiant poets. Just days in the past I was going by means of the various letters my mates from jail have despatched me. And in some way throughout the combine was a letter from Jean. She puzzled if I had the names of some younger poets she ought to be checking for. I want I remembered whose title I gave her, if anybody’s. But perhaps it doesn’t matter; perhaps for us poets, it solely issues that somebody is asking if we exist. Jean Valentine was a poet all the time on the lookout for and singing the names of others. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman
I came to you
By Jean Valentine
I came to you
Lord, due to
the fucking reticence
of this world
no, not the world, not reticence, oh
We had been unhappy on the bottom
We had been unhappy on the bottom.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and set up them in prisons throughout the nation. His newest assortment of poetry, ‘‘Felon,’’ explores the post-incarceration expertise. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer received a National Magazine Award. Jean Valentine was a poet whose work included ‘‘Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003’’ (Wesleyan University Press, 2004), which received the National Book Award for Poetry in 2004. She was the New York State Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010.