The opening poem in “Felon” (Norton) by Reginald Dwayne Betts includes these stirring lines: “Dear Warden, my time been served, let me go,/ Promise that some of this I won’t recollect.” Betts, who served more than eight years in prison (for a carjacking he committed at 16), in fact recalls — clearly — how it felt to endure life behind bars. Those stark memories shape the story he tells here of a speaker who, like many of his fellow inmates, grew up in poverty, surrounded by violence, which led to them all “standing on the wrong side of choices.” 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. (The speaker experiences all of those things and more. So do most inmates nationwide.) Betts, who later earned a graduate degree in creative writing, and a law degree from Yale, writes masterfully, in various forms. He also illustrates the transformative power of love.