Jordan Hamel poems make me cry in the toilets at work. Jordan Hamel poems make me scream within the four walls of my bedroom. Jordan Hamel poems follow me through my days, and I beckon them onwards. Everyone is Everyone Except You is his debut collection of poetry, and the poems within are no exception.
Jordan’s poems are clever and heartbreaking, delicately walking the line between humorous and depressing. The second poem in the collection, ‘Suitcase (Everything, everything will be alright, alright)’ made me cry at my kitchen counter, and after I’d wiped my cheeks dry I wondered what I was getting myself into. A recurring theme in his work is that of toxic masculinity, and how New Zealand society treats men’s expression of emotion as a crime. The poem sees its narrator consoling someone in a brief display of emotion. The line, “Until that day I’d never held someone who was both boy and man at the same time” is what broke me, but the whole poem is laced with that pain many of us know well. It’s daring to bare one’s soul like this, especially when society doesn’t hold space for it. But that’s what Jordan does so brilliantly, and as much as I laugh at his words, they also nourish an ache I’ve felt my whole life. In that lies the power of poetry.
And while this ache feels echoed throughout the whole of the book, there are clear moments of laughter dotted throughout. In the opening poem, ‘The worst thing that will ever happen to you hasn’t happened yet’, he borrows a well known proverb. “Just like someone’s dad always said / I assume even a broken man is right twice a day.” The poem goes on to examine masculinity and all its faults and idiosyncrasies, and it is not the last in the book to do so. The humor added to this point of view is refreshing, especially because it doesn’t detract from the heart wrenching moments of the collection.
Jordan’s slam poet roots are evident in the way he writes. Some lines are so on the nose that you can just imagine their delivery. In ‘Throw me up and lock away the key’ he writes, “Poetry is the infinity pool of vanity / and baby I have bought my wetsuit.” I suppose that makes the lot of us deep sea divers! I think there’s a real power in writing lines that make you picture them delivered to you on stage, transporting you into the world of the poem. The poem is about wanting someone to like you and needing that sense of approval from them. I appreciate how easily Jordan wraps these feelings into humourous bite sized pieces. Each is just enough, enticing you to turn the page for more.
Something that did surprise me about the collection, is the sexiness that embellishes several of the poems throughout. If you took a shot for every time sex toys are mentioned you’d be well on your way to fucked up. But not every mention is so direct. In ‘Pool boy’ he writes, “I want to want things / in ways that don’t hold me under because it’s my ass / in red speedos bent over the edge.” The poem is about that treading-water feeling of being a young adult adjusting to the constant barrage of handling life, a feeling I think we can all relate to. And yet, wedged in between the feeling of impending doom, there’s that hint of cheekiness I’ve come to expect and enjoy from Jordan’s poetry.
It’s not until the closer, ‘Human resource’, that you as the reader realise the marathon the extended metaphors of the book have been running. This whole time everything has been connected, linked subtly until now when it punches you in the face, the perfect final punctuation. And of course, there’s one last laugh before you concede into tears, with the line “Rome wasn’t built in a day / but you aren’t Rome / you are Timaru at best.” Ouch.
Jordan’s debut collection is a triumph. In my opinion good poetry is thought provoking, funny, and heartbreaking all at once, and Jordan has done just that over and over again in this book. If you want a laugh and maybe a cry, I entreat you: go and read it.
Everyone Is Everyone Except You is available for purchase from Dead Bird Books.
Featured photo courtesy of harold coutts.