Randall Horton

Roxbury (Kattywompus Press, 2012)

What’s the oldest piece of memoir in your chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The oldest piece in my chapbook is the last section. The section was originally titled “Father, Forgive Me,” and it details my court hearing in Montgomery County, MD in 1999. I was appearing before the judge on a “motion for consideration” after having received a lengthy prison sentence. I had been in jail close to 30 months at that time. My lawyer was asking the court to commute my sentence and allow me the opportunity to attend a two-year program in North Carolina. The courtroom scene is very vivid in my mind until this very day. It took me ten years to really process what that moment meant to the rest of my life. When I did write the piece, it inspired me to write my story down, to talk about the drugs, addiction, homelessness and prison in terms of a full length memoir.

What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?

Well, first of all, it is prose, and I have primarily written poetry. So, it is a very lyrical and imagistic book, in my opinion. The book is an excerpt from a larger project titled Letters to Lxxxx: An Epistolary Memoir that is as of yet unpublished. Roxbury is a state prison facility in Hagerstown, MD; my chapbook chronicles the time I spent there until my release in a very dramatic courtroom scene.

Did you submit your chapbook to contests, open reading periods, or both?

I submitted the chapbook to Kattywompus Press and the amazing person and editor, Sammy Greenspan. They have open submissions with a small reading fee. Originally Sammy rejected the chapbook and suggested I submit a more controlled section, which she did accept. I thank her for that. Her edits and attention to my book really helped me grow as a writer. A very amazing small press.

What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?

I recorded this reading of Roxbury in a studio Thanks to Coop Magnet High School in New haven, CT. This has been my main mode of publicizing the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p29O2H6W8G8.

If you could have a soundtrack for your chapbook, what songs would be playing?

The Roots, “Now or Never.”

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Randall Horton is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, and most recently a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. Randall is a Cave Canem Fellow, a member of the Affrilachian Poets, and a member of The Symphony: The House that Etheridge Built. Randall is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven. Roxbury, an excerpt from his memoir, is published by Kattywompus Press. Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press in the publisher of his latest poetry collection, Pitch Dark Anarchy.

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excerpt from Roxbury

The reality of Roxbury Correctional, as with any prison, is rooted in the idea that one cannot leave on his own free will, the key word being free. Walking from intake into and across the prison yard, one gets a false security taking in the pristine lawns and clean sidewalks. One could be visiting a gated college campus in a rural town if not for the razor wire circling the complex, which includes three housing units shaped into a triangle. The Rottweilers’ snapping jaws immediately destroy this fantasy. A few paces further and the guard tower comes into focus against the backdrop of a cobalt sky. One can’t help but think about the index finger more than willing to squeeze the trigger—the scope, barrel and mirrored shades following every inmate’s footstep. 11:00 pm lock-in instigates a crippling silence in Cell 16 until the doors roll back at 4:30am for breakfast. We empty our cells into a stream of human flesh migrating towards the dining hall, which is a hundred yards opposite the housing unit. Our bodies blend together effortlessly. We could be a herd of cattle going to graze before sunup.

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