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The Big Book of Exit Strategies

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  166 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Praise for Jamaal May:

"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

Following Jamaal May's award-winning debut collection, Hum (2013), these new poems explore parallel landscapes of the poet's interior and an insidious American
Paperback, 100 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by Alice James Books
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4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  166 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Joseph Dante
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
I could only read so much of this in one sitting because every line comes at you like a fist to a different part of your body.

The violence done to black men. The devastation of war and the burying of the dead. The terror of guns and the fragility of life. Ow, ow, ow.

But it also includes homages to the city of Detroit and love poems for Tarfia Faizullah.

Although every single poem in this collection is worth your time, here are some of my favorites:
"There Are Birds Here"
"FBI Questioning During the
Amorak Huey
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I love Hum, Jamaal May's first book, so much that I sort of put off reading this one (which I bought from the Alice James table at AWP a few months ago). Turns out, this book is just as good. Maybe even better. This a collection of amazing, brilliant, moving, heartfelt poems.

Every poem in here steals a little bit of one's breath. I had to stop after each poem, to sit with it for a moment and process what I just read. There are poems here that engage with race in America, with urban life (Detroi
Lexi Nylander
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I liked Jamaal May's writing style a whole whole lot. My favorites were FBI Questioning During the 2009 Presidential Inaguration, especially the first stanza, and Conducting Ivy with the Girl Down the Street and The Unseen Hand of Zombie Jesus. I also greatly enjoyed the two poems that were for Tarfia.

"And when she says drums I break into a broken little beatbox but she covers my mouth / kisses the back of her hand and beings to articulate the green that just keeps rising out of us."

"My friend,
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOW. I loved everything about this collection! I felt every line of this so deeply, it gave me goosebumps in many parts. May covers so many different topics, but the thread that keeps them all tied together is Detroit. It's so easy to lose yourself in these poems and May's voice is powerful, like music and heartache tied together. My favorites in here are "The Gun Joke", "To Detroiters I May Have Called by the Wrong Names", and "FBI Questioning During the 2009 Presidential Inauguration".

May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not as thematically tight as Hum but the sheer diversity of subject and tones makes this collection of poems a good overview of May's work.

This collection absolutely must be read out-loud as the poet's beautiful use of beat, and contrasting assonance/consonance make the poems roll off one's tongue. I found that without standing and reading them, several poems went over my head, but read aloud, the themes and insights were revealed.

I have attended a reading by the author, so as best I could, I tr
Arielle Hebert
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
May doesn't have one type of poem. They stray and vary. Letters/ poems to Detroit, sweet love poems for Tarfia (<3)...the mournful alongside the hopeful as Jamaal May does so well. He navigates the dark corners of the self with poems haunted by ruins juxtaposed with poems illuminated with marvel at this life.
A great collection following Hum.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I liked this so very much.

"and I still believe what matters most
is not where I bend
but where I am growing."
South Buncombe Library
4 stars. I don't think there's anything much more civilized than reading a beautiful and powerful collection of poems before breakfast. -Sarah
Diana  Marie
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good poetry has the power to change your understanding of and outlook on life. In The Big Book of Exit Strategies, Jamaal May accomplishes just that. He takes on heavy topics like gun violence, racism, war, mental illness, and even the future with astute observations and dark wit. I was especially impressed by May’s ability to connect personal matters (like a job) to a larger commentary on culture and society without it feeling forced. It’s rare to come across a modern poet who seamlessly weaves ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. His poems, and images were powerful and direct. His sense of imagination did not take me away from the world, but it helped root me more strongly in it. He said things that caused me to say “of course.” And they made me realize that though I said “of course,” I am often leaving unsaid what needs to be said. Poem after poem awakened me. They were great.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with any poetry collection, there were days I picked this book up and couldn't comprehend a single line I was looking at, and then other days when I picked it up with my bookmark in the same exact spot and understood everything.

There's another reviewer here that said Jamaal May's poetry is meant to be read out loud and they're absolutely right.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Stumbled upon this at the library. There's a whole section of modern poets I didn't see before @_@. There are interesting twists of phrases and combinations and some stinging emotions in between in this collection.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Poetry is not always for everybody. This was however something I could relate to and understand. I enjoyed it very much.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wonderful poetry collection that will both tug at your heartstrings and send them singing.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4.5/5 Stars
Joslyn Allen
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Review published: https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress...

It’s funny, she says,
how many people are shocked by this shooting
and the next and next and the next.

She doesn’t mean funny as in funny, but funny
as in blood soup tastes funny when you stir in soil.
– from The Gun Joke

With a trippy cover like this one, you really don’t know what you are in for. What you are in for, in fact, is an important and moving journey. “The Big Book of Exit Strategies” is, in truth, quite small, but it packs an emoti
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a Very Good Book written by a Truly Remarkable Poet who is also quite possibly a Genius.

Jamaal is astounding in his mastery of the written word. He is emotive, and aching, and brutal, and so so gentle.

This book is a gift. It is a prophecy. It is a miracle. You should probably read it.
Sometimes you read such a good poetry collection that you wish you could pull specific fragments and words from it and form a necklace out of them that you'd wear daily, proudly showing it off to everyone on the street so that they, too, can run and read it from curiosity. May has exceeded his own magic and magnificence in this collection, and poems like "As the Saying Goes", "The Gun Joke", "Little Design", and "To Detroiters I Too May Have Called By the Wrong Names" are the perfect example of ...more
San Diego Book Review
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by DM O'Conor

Jamaal May’s second poetry collection, “The Big Book of Exit Strategies” is a tender force with serious reckoning. From the mundane slicing of a finger while cutting an onion to Zombie Jesus plugging his email address to make $$ at home—there are serious issues being debated under a shining slick veneer. Although the poems have a wide range and style, the common thread that ties the collection together is Detroit City; even when not directly mentioned, the rhythm of Motown,
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, poetry

i still think Jamaal May is a poet to watch. this book is a natural extension of Hum, with some overlapping concerns and some new. i don't really understand why "Big Book" is the title poem - it's sort of an outlier to the rest of the collection and that muddied my conception of how to read the book overall.
Pat Edwards
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great voice, unique. I loved that May referenced himself in many poems like the Persian and Sufi poets do.
Sean Kottke
My favorite poem in the collection: "There Are Birds Here." Read it at Poetry Out Loud.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites, poetry
I loooooove Jamaal May's poetry.
Nandini Dhar
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May 16, 2018
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“I write because I love you enough
to ask for what is terrible: run farther
than your feet can possibly carry your heart.
I love you enough to confess that you will fail
but fail closer to the finish line
than if you lie down when the start guns fires.
And in this way, you will never fail
to be an arch, stepping-stone, bridge
of bone and intellect,
of guts and song. Look
how lively the children step.

Let's nod our heads to their footfalls.
Become backbeat with me
and they will sing the harmonics
we forgot to learn.

Tell me you wouldn't die for that.

Tell me you will live for this.”
More quotes…