James Giddings on "Ordinary Beast" by Nicole Sealey

Posted 16 Jan 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

This post is the first in a series by members of the Writing Squad, which provides support to writers in the North aged 16 to 21. 

"Every Christmas I make a list of books for people to buy me because I am one of those tragic straight-shooting human annoyances who when asked ‘what do you want for Christmas’, says, ‘Nothing’ and means it. This book list is my little concession towards being helpful to those who might actually like me enough to buy me a present.

Ordinary BeastThis year I put Nicole Sealey’s book, Ordinary Beast, on the list. Now, if I’m honest, I put the book on the list because of its extortionate price. There was no way I was going to buy it, so if some sucka was silly enough to buy it for me, then I’ve played the present-buying system like a card-counting professional. My girlfriend was the person silly enough to buy this book for me. True love has no regard for its bank account.

Ordinary Beast had much for me relate to. In her poem ‘happy birthday to me’ she closes with the line ‘Had you asked, I could’ve told you I’m not doing especially well at being alive.’ Having just had my 27th birthday and teetering on the edge of an early mid-life crisis, it’s important to know that everyone is as broken as you are.

There was a lot in this book though I could never relate to. Being a black woman for example, going to the gym and waiting for ‘a white woman/in this overpriced Equinox/to mistake me for someone other/than a paying member.’ As a white man who has never considered himself to have an identity, Ordinary Beast made me rethink this.

At Christmas you surround yourself with loved ones, and sometimes other people’s loved ones, who you yourself, might not love. They might say something stupid, something dangerous and make you realise there are beasts everywhere. It made me question myself, my identity, whether I am someone who speaks up when there is injustice. If you’re not already, this book will make you speak up."

James GiddingsJames is a poet, editor, coach, workshop leader and curator of this biography. He won a Northern Writers Award in 2015 and his book Everything is Scripted was published by Templar Poetry in 2016. 

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