Acclaimed Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts and Musician Reed Turchi have today released their new poetic single titled ‘Whiskey For Breakfast’, from the upcoming Spoken-Word album ‘House of Unending‘, dropping August 25th.
I am instantly remined of the saying ‘Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character’. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.’ I not only think of this when I listen to ‘Whiskey For Breakfast’, I am reminded of this when I research and learn about the project known as ‘House of Unending’. This massive collaboration of music and mind infused with heart from Reginald Dwayne Betts and Reed Turchi is not only liked and loved; it is needed.
In a world where we are more and more becoming narcissists in search of our fifteen minutes, we only need the 1:23 that is ‘Whiskey For Breakfast’ to know that we are a collective on this Earth. We are our own best saviors. That we are the sum of our actions and our actions are the sum of our thoughts and beliefs. ‘House of Unending’ is something we desperately need in this world to remind us of such and much, much more.
Even God has no alibi.
About ‘House of Unending’
Turchi’s work has been featured by Rolling Stone, PBS, NPR, and more. Betts, who is also a lawyer, is the Founder & CEO of Freedom Reads, a non-profit bringing libraries and hope to prison housing units across the nation. Melding together the worlds of spoken word poetry and slide-guitar improvisation, this new track, “Whiskey for Breakfast,” comments on the human state of being, comparing the creation of whiskey to prison; at the end of both, you are left to confront the remnants of the past.
Last month, the duo officially announced their collaboration project and released lead single “Essay Of Reentry,” the LP’s opening. For years the two traded mix CDs and poems and discussed a potential partnership, aiming to bring together the blues-guitar influence Turchi picked up in North Mississippi and Betts’ poetic subject material. The 11-track culmination finds Betts’ powerful message further emboldened by Turchi’s driving musicality. “Essay on Reentry” sets the tone as it replays a collect call from prison Betts has with someone. The fervent introduction is a piece that centers around the subject Betts is conversing with and what it means to leave – and yet forever be shaped by – prison.
The creation of House of Unending began over a decade ago, when Betts and Turchi first met in a scenario that can only be described as kismet: as two-on-two teammates on a basketball court, facing off against poets Alan Shapiro and Rob Cohen at the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. Betts was only recently home from his nine-year prison sentence, pursuing the MFA in poetry that would prove to be a lineage of degrees, including a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. In 2021, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”) and is currently working on a PhD in Law at Yale University.
Reginald Dwayne Betts has a truly unique story and journey that is an inspiring testament to the power of redemption and transformation. Once an aspiring poet from a disadvantaged background, Betts’s life took a tragic turn when, at the age of 16, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for a carjacking. During his incarceration, Betts immersed himself in literature, discovering a profound love for words that would change his life forever. Upon his release, he dedicated himself to education and advocacy, earning a law degree from Yale, becoming a prominent voice in criminal justice reform, and founding and leading Freedom Reads. Today, Betts uses his powerful artistry to shed light on the complexities of the American justice system and to offer hope to those who have experienced its harsh realities. His story and that of Freedom Reads serve as a poignant reminder that resilience, education, and the written word have the power to transcend the darkest of circumstances.
In House of Unending what emerges is a shared inner ear, shaped by poetic and musical influences. As Betts begins each poem—part recitation, part improvisation—Turchi finds moods, notes, and rhythms that pair with the underlying cadence and subject. Betts delivers his words line by line, breath by breath, and Turchi, through guitar, finds ways to match this breathing. What results is not Turchi following Betts, or Betts flattened into a monotone due to direction of the guitar, but a symbiotic relationship that allows both music and word to develop, explore, and intertwine.
About Reed Turchi
Reed Turchi is a musician and producer who has toured North America and Europe, directed record labels, scored films, created sound installations, and collaborated with chefs, poets, distillers, and photographers. His work has been featured by Rolling Stone, PBS, NPR, KEXP, American Songwriter, Daytrotter, and The Oxford American among others, and in January 2023 he received his MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. Raised in the Swannanoa Valley of Western North Carolina, he now resides in Brooklyn, after a decade in Nashville, Memphis, and North Mississippi.
About Reginald Dwayne Betts
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. A 2021 MacArthur Fellow, he is the Executive Director of Freedom Reads, a not-for-profit organization that is radically transforming the access to literature in prisons through the installation of Freedom Libraries in prisons across this country. For more than twenty-years, he has used his poetry and essays to explore the world of prison and the effects of violence and incarceration on American society. The author of a memoir and three collections of poetry, he has transformed his latest collection of poetry, the American Book Award-winning Felon, into a solo theater show that explores the post incarceration experience and lingering consequences of a criminal record through poetry, stories, and engaging with the timeless and transcendental art of paper-making.
In 2019, Betts won the National Magazine Award in the Essays and Criticism category for his NY Times Magazine essay that chronicles his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He has been awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Emerson Fellow at New America, and most recently a Civil Society Fellow at Aspen. Betts holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Featured image by Gioncarlo Valentine.