Published 2016 by Big White Shed
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Synopsis (from the blurb):
Imagine a city of muscle softening to a murmur of violin. The scrum of lad glimpsing their timid boy-selves through the strobe light of a club. A party where tenderness is the dress code. To be weak is to be welcomed. The banter asked to leave so as to make space for the truth.
Boy is a dance with the tense of language of masculinity ending in awkward hug. A journey not to forgive sensitivity but celebrate its gift. A love-note to the fourteen-year old-boy’s silence. Covering his mouth in the classroom, a passenger seat, the world.
An invitation to a place where, if nothing else, it is possible to be both boy and beautiful.
I first experienced Jim’s poetry when he was the featured poet at Crosswords Open Mic night at the Malt Cross in Nottingham. I’d never seen him before, but he was by far one of the best poets I had ever encountered. His poems spoke to me in a way that poems never had done before, and the way he performs them somehow manages to add that final element of meaning that you don’t necessarily get on the page.
Boy is about feelings, it’s about saying what is in your heart and your mind, it is about having a voice to say the things that you’re not sure anyone else is feeling but that deep down, you know you’re not alone. Even if you feel alone.
It’s about giving a voice to boys (or men) in terms of how they feel about being emotional or sensitive, and saying that it’s okay to cry, or want a hug, or be held, or any of the other things that conventionally are seen as ‘soft’ or deemed unmasculine.
Jim’s titles are almost poems in themselves, and I expect as much from the title as from the poem I’m about to read! Almost all of them start with the word ‘Boy’ and goes onto describe something that the boy does: ‘Boy Breaks Into Kanye’s Dressing Room, Armed With A Need To Be Hugged & Too Many Unanswered Questions’.
A lot of his lines take you by surprise emotionally. They are entertaining one moment and then hit you in the heart the next minute. They hit you in that spot that suddenly makes you want to cry or crumple your face up because you know how it feels, you know what you’re reading are feelings that aren’t always spoken about.
“Telling my brother Life of Pi is a better movie
meaning to say I love you is a better everything.”
His poems experiment with form too. A lot of them have long lines, others are made up entirely of questions (See Kanye), an email, a rap, song title suggestions, text messages (with the actual iphone messaging bubbles), a Facebook chat (sans bubbles)…
It’s a wonderful collection that deserves more than one read. There are poems here that need re-visiting to be experienced again and again.
Jim has a voice that needs to be heard, his voice is in his poetry and his poetry can give a voice to others.
If you want to think about masculinity and what it really means to be boy/man/male/he then read this collection.
At the end of the book, Jim recommends a few helplines, including CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) which is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide in the UK.
Check out Jim’s blog where you can buy his book here