The collection is, as I said earlier, –

A wry friend once told me, ‘If you’ve heard one performance poet, you’ve heard them fall’.
He put a slight gap between the f and all of ‘fall’.

Though there’s some truth about many performance poets sounding similar in his quip, I replied ‘But what if you’ve read them first?’

James Wheale [@JamesWheale] is the writer of Maskboy and more besides.

Not yet 25, he’s won poetry slams and written interactive games that have toured the world – I haven’t seen James perform apart from in that old Youtube video but I have read Maskboy.

Maskboy is Mr Wheale’s first collection and it’s for all those of us who’ve grown up reading comics. It’s a collection of poems that can be performed or can be mulled over or projected onto your inner cinema-screen like the best comic-book panels.

The key figures in the book are the poet, a time machine, a witch-doctor, and the titular Maskboy.
The poet is our average-man who could become a hero or a villain, we don’t know til the end – this, of course, is a formal construct of the positioning of the poems and works the notion that in writing, we make ourselves. Some poems are split in two so that their tone and their echo continues to be felt and heard under those it bookends. This construct is perhaps the best in Maskboy because it gives the poems, what any good Doctor Who fan would call, a timey-wimey feeling of not concentric-circles but an interconnected, achronal existence.

I can’t resist a formal construct so, if you can’t yet tell, I enjoyed Maskboy.

In looking at science-fiction and super-hero themes, it immediately brings notions of performativity, the masks we wear every day, and the illusions/delusions/realities we create for ourselves.

The collection is, as I said earlier, –

There are wordplays aplenty, simple things that we’ve all thought to do and never had the bravery to but superhero-makings too:

I can bring you back
in a handful of lines
in a yellow radiance
laced across your tangerine lit wrists
singing one of the crap songs we once wrote.

back to her rightful place as a myth.
This is what a time machine does
it makes you an addict of your past

This is taken from the poem ‘Time Travellers Anonymous.’
The question of time travel runs throughout the collection and examines the idea of building a Time Machine  as an adventure, as a way to get back to old loves, as madness but it’s this realization that ‘It makes you an addict of your past’ that I enjoy most. I don’t like nostalgia and neither does this realization.

The collection is, as I said earlier, a brave one – it is free from the distant, ironic, and dry; it’s often funny because it’s so frank; it’s earnest; and it has no qualms about revealing intimate details yet never ‘over-shares’, as the internet would have it. It walks and often slides on many (time) streams but manages them in a manner that’s disarmingly elegant.

This is an honest collection and one I enjoyed reading.

The collection is, as I said earlier, one I’d recommend you read too.
Whatever your chronotope.


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