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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.