From seven felonies to a tenured position, poet and memoirist Randall Horton has seen it all.
On Sept. 6, Horton gave a riveting reading of his memoir, “Hook,” as part of the 2017 Kelly Writers Series.
Horton’s 2015 memoir “Hook” is a compilation of journal entries of poetic reflections and correspondences between him and an incarcerated friend, who is referred to in the text as Lxxxx.
“Hook” outlines Horton’s time as an addict, taking a wild ride from slow days at Howard University to years spent stuck in the prison system. Horton reflects on the mass incarceration of people of color as he corresponds with Lxxxx, who writes from inside the system herself.
Today, Horton seeks to reach out to those trying to reconstruct their lives after prison. “When you come through these things, you understand that you have to give it back,” he said. “When I was coming through, I needed to know someone like me.”
Horton uses his beginnings as a poet to immerse the reader in his past struggles with addiction and redemption. “The job of the writer is not only to be a reporter, but to give the reader an experience too,” he said.
His strong command of language stood out in his passionate reading, taking the audience along with him through the ups and downs of his life. After reading from a selection of his poems and excerpts from his memoir, Horton answered students’ questions. With brutal honesty, Horton elaborated on his writing career, the tribulations of writing a memoir, and his trajectory from inmate to professor.
Horton was the first guest of the 2017 Kelly Writers Series. On Oct. 11, James Magruder will come to DePauw to share some of his work as a playwright, fiction writer, and translator.
Natalie Diaz, author of “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” will do a reading on Oct. 25. Diaz has won many awards for her poetry, including the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Narrative Poetry Prize, to name a few. She now works with some of the last remaining speakers of the Mojave language.
On Nov.15, there will be a student reading. All of the Kelly Writers Series events will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Peeler Art Center Auditorium.