The Big Book of Exit Strategies

The Big Book of Exit Strategies


Jamaal May

Nominated for the 2017 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry
2017 Finalist for the PEN Open Book Award
2017 Finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

“. . . each line seems to turn the next like a skeleton key opening an endless hallway of doors.”
Publishers Weekly

April 2016

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Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and filmmaker from Detroit, MI where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His poetry won the 2013 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, The Believer, NER,and The Kenyon Review. Jamaal has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He founded the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press. To stay up-to-date with all things Jamaal May, click here to subscribe to his newsletter.

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— NC

Additional Praise:

2013 Silver IndieFab Award Winner
2013 ForeWord Book of the Year Award Finalist
2012 Beatrice Hawley Award

“The Detroit of Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is littered with broken glass, shattered vials, and discarded syringes. Noting the empty shells of grand colonials lining the streets and battered cars sitting on cinder blocks, May argues against romanticizing urban decay.”
Boston Review

“When it comes to technology, [Jamaal May] is no alarmist. It’s the friction between machines and humans (and humans with each other) that fuels these incisive, original poems.”

“Like blighted blocks reclaimed for urban farming, [Jamaal May] has a knack for turning the utterly mundane into lyric beauty.”
On the Seawall

“. . .[Jamaal] May’s work is further proof of the nonsensical distinction between academic and performance poetry. May’s command of language, his deliberateness, and his facility with form are impossible to ignore. . . . Language is a tool that May is using, not to make ornaments, but to externalize his reality, to give himself to the reader.”
Muzzle Magazine

“May’s poems are not a struggle to be heard above his harmlessness, but a struggle to prove his own softness and kindness, and his fight against–and occasional succumbing to–the human instinct for retaliation against a world that is unjustly violent and destructive.”
Philadelphia Review of Books

“What is truly remarkable in these poems [in Hum] is that every object does so much work; there are no spare parts, no incidental details. . . . [Jamaal] May’s poems are littered with what would be, in another poet’s vision, detritus, the remains of things that used to hum with life.”
The Critical Flame

Hum is a bittersweet love song to Detroit. . . . The melancholic hum of [Jamaal] May’s tone lends gravity and heart to this debut collection, which might have otherwise been consumed by its conceits. May’s work is skillful and nuanced in its surprising approach to the nature (and nurture) of identity.”
The Los Angeles Review of Books

Hum will make you feel as if you are inside of a machine, as if you are a machine, as if you are making a machine, as if you cannot escape a machine that makes a war of the world every day.”
American Mircroreviews and Interviews

“[Hum] delves deeply, employs clever wordplay, and digs into the resonant hollow of empty space—a play on white noise that gets to the center of a universal rhythm. . .”

“Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . [Jamaal May’s] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel.”
Publishers Weekly

“Jamaal May is one of the finest poets in his generation. This debut collection is one that makes a mark, that crackles with energy and skill. I know I am excited to sit down with it. Strongly recommended.”
—C. Dale Young

“Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is concerned with what’s beneath the surfaces of things—the unseen that eats away at us or does the work of sustaining us. Reading these poems, I was reminded of Ellison’s ‘lower frequencies,’ a voice speaking for us all. May has a fine ear, acutely attuned to the sonic textures of everyday experience. And Hum—a meditation on the machinery of living, an extended ode to sound and silence—is a compelling debut.”
—Natasha Trethewey

“The elegant and laconic intelligence in these poems, their skepticism and bent humor and deliberately anti-Romantic stance toward experience are completely refreshing. After so much contemporary writing that seems all flash, no mind and no heart, these poems show how close observation of the world and a gift for plain-spoken, but eloquent speech, can give to poetry both dignity and largeness of purpose, and do it in an idiom that is pitch perfect to emotional nuance and fine intellectual distinctions. Hard-headed and tough-minded, Hum is the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.'”
—Tom Sleigh

“In his percussive debut collection Hum, Jamaal May offers a salve for our phobias and restores the sublime to the urban landscape. Whether you need a friend to confide in, a healer to go to, or a tour guide to take you there, look no further. That low hum you hear are these poems, emanating both wisdom and swagger.”
—A. Van Jordan

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— NC

More by Jamaal May:

This space is left empty to create a white space. To create a white separation block in these individual book pages, add a Quote Block
— NC