A sequence of short features focusing on the five individual young poets included in the recently-launched collection Rising Stars published by Otter-Barry Books.
Jay Hulme is a young transgender performance poet from Leicester, now based in Bristol. Another SLAMbassadors 2015 winner, he has already self-published two solo collections and has been featured in various anthologies. He also publishes on Tumblr and has recently established a Patreon page, primarily to help him offer his services for free to disadvantaged schools, libraries, and charities.
This poem about being transgender is not included in Rising Stars.
Last year he was featured in a DAZE item on up-and-coming spoken word artists:
Hulme talks about a range of topics, from life in the Midlands to his first week experiences at university. Hulme’s poem I am a man is a personal address as a transgender man to the problems that transgender people come up against every day. Ranging from pronoun mix-ups to death threats, Hulme’s frank spoken word performance, which is both touching and educational, is refreshing. Hulme shows just how important spoken word is to the new generation of people using the genre to address personal issues and share them with a wider audience.
Hulme’s style is direct and uncomplicated. Young readers will not struggle to understand any of his poems. The first of his eight poems included in Rising Stars, titled ‘Community’ with a knowing irony, describes growing up in an anonymous neighbourhood that will be recognisable by many people living in the suburbs.
We were told somebody started
a Neighbourhood Watch,
but I never met anyone
I know for sure was a neighbour.
we were all just figures, behind net curtains.
In the winters I’d walk the dog round the block,
hood up, head down, letting the world pass me by.
This is a moment to mention that the book has three different illustrators; Riya Chowdhury, Eleanor Chuah and Joe Manners. The latter is Hulme’s illustrator and I love the way he has interpreted this opening poem.
Hulme is particularly good at beginning with a prosaic everyday sensations then building it into a poetic one using simple techniques such as repetition and word pattern. ‘I Thought I Was Small’ begins
I thought I was small
when I first went to London
When I didn’t notice the heart
built into my body.
When I didn’t notice the universe
held within my soul.
I thought I was small.
Manners’ illustration for this poem is another particularly good one.
‘New Words’ is rhythmic and rhyming in a very self-assured way, and ‘Sunset at Brean Down’ is a lyric of beautiful timelessness
We walked on the shoreline,
My old dog and me,
Our feet being rushed
By the rippling sea.
The whole poem is very well done.
Hulme’s contribution to the collection ends with the thought-provoking ‘The Border’, about a walk with the ghosts from the past.
I wished they’d teach me
what stands before me, what types of mystery lie ahead.
But they stay silent. I forgive the
secrets guarded by the dead.
This is again very fine. I love the enjambment in the final two lines.
For features on the other Rising Stars poets see: