Poetic Reentry: From A Rooftop, A Beacon Of Light

Cardell Belfoure reads poetry he wrote while in prison.
Cardell Belfoure says the poetry he wrote in prison has given him a sense of purpose since his release. [Margaret Cavalier / Ideastream Public Media]
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This story is part of a series called Poetic Reentry, featuring the voices of formerly incarcerated men reading poetry they wrote in prison and talking about their lives since release. Please visit the main page for the series at http://www.ideastream.org/poeticreentry.

Cardell Belfoure had been writing poetry for several years before joining the ID13 Prison Literacy Project while incarcerated at Grafton Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio.

"Poetry, when I was locked up, was like therapy for me," Belfoure said. "In a space of incarceration, everybody's got their guard up. So with me with writing, now I can express myself."

Since his release in December 2020, Belfoure has been running a collective of Cleveland poets called Poetic Companions and giving performances at venues around the city. He also works as a roofer.

"Last year, I was behind a barbed wire fence," he said. "This year I'm feeling like I'm on top of the world because I'm on this roof. So it ain't like I done found my big payday yet, but it's keeping me afloat, you know. So I'll continue to do it until I can find something better."

In the future, he'd like to organize readings both inside prisons and in urban communities where young men are at higher risk of incarceration.

"I wouldn't say poetry is why I have my freedom, but it's a nice part of my freedom ," Befoure says. "It's given me a cause. I want to be a beacon of light and help people understand that what you have is precious, which is your freedom."

He lives with family in Warrensville Heights.


An excerpt from "For Better Or For Worse," by Cardell Belfoure:

In my heart of hearts I knew it was going to be okay.
It's been that way since I looked into your eyes that first day.
I swear, my whole anatomy needs you in the worst way.
And when we're together it's like everyday is my birthday.
I used to think you didn't want to see me shine.

But you was right about a lot of stuff,
But the street life had me blind.
You said change takes time.
And every time I fell I looked up
You were right there by my side.

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