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Everyone is Everyone Except You by Jordan Hamel

This brand-new collection of poetry is from Pōneke poet Jordan Hamel. What a lot of levels. So much happening on so many levels. Read it for the quick, witty quotes but come back for the lingering metaphor and the straight-talking, straight to the point bluntness, that’s sharp as a knife. Let me give you a couple of quick examples:

‘Deliver us from temptation

Like a reverse Uber Eats’


‘I want a jealous fan club I can neglect emotionally’

There are some great poems in this collection, none more so than the first. Hamel sometimes uses his frequently long titles as the first line. Here are the first two verses. The titles are always in bold:

‘The worst thing that will ever happen to you hasn’t happened yet

but it will soon just like someone‘s dad always said

I assume even a broken man is right twice a day

and there isn’t a masculinity crisis I can fix

never learnt the tricks of the trade an adolescence

exploring my own nuts and bolts now I’m all kinds of

ill-equipped can’t tell the difference. Between a socket-wrench

and an orgasm a poor workman always blames his you know

but we try and do and make do’

This and many of the other poems dwell on masculinity – both the Kiwi notions of it and the failure to live up to them. Who wouldn’t want to know how to back a trailer into a garage or be able to name all the power tools inside? As well as that theme of letting down family and friends, there is also a strong undercurrent of letting down God. Not showing the weak side is the theme of the second poem, Suitcase… when the captain of the rugby team cannot cope with the split of his parent’s marriage ‘don’t tell the boys for God’s sake don’t tell the boys.’ That poem is home to some other great lines:

‘In our hometown, a box of Double Brown is called a suitcase because it will always take you on some regrettable journey.’

Been there, done that, but never found such a great way to put it into words

There are so many poems to love, but at some point you have to ask, why is Jordan beating himself up so much. These poems are great, he has so much talent. There is no need for him to say:

‘Maybe it was always my calling

to be an extra in my own story.’

That phrase we hear so much in New Zealand about making the best of it can mean everything, even when running away with your lover in an old Toyota Corolla on the BP forecourt in Carterton.

The self-deprecation reaches a high-point in The Jordan Hamel Committee of Failed Relationships which meets monthly at the Aro Valley Community Centre. Having climbed through the window to eavesdrop, we are treated to another of those stunning lines: ‘I’m the galaxy’s worst sun, all the orbit, none of the light.’ The meeting ends ‘with a reminder that the wait list is out of control so they’re on the lookout for a bigger venue.’ It concludes, ‘the worst part of the whole meeting was no one mentioned my name, not even once.’

The Briscoes Lady turns up twice in the book. She is a national icon who most people could not name. She was also in an impressive poem by Paula Harris in this year’s Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. People must wonder why the fuss over someone in an advert? But some kids, and by that I mean anyone under thirty, have probably seen more of her than they have of some of their relatives. Hamel gives her a first name and seeks her help to plan his funeral. So much great humour.

The final poem in the book, ‘Human Resource’, is there for anyone who has lived too long in office life, even more so for those who are yet to escape.

‘Check your to do list:

1. Think outside the box

2. Practice resilience

3. Consider a standing desk

4. If I scream continuously right now how long before someone

stops me?

5. Prepare for the communication workshop’

One last thing that I do when reading a book of poetry is to flick through all the pages really fast, like those drawings you made as kids of running stick men. I take in the white space and how it is used. Check to see that everything isn’t left-justified, check closer if there is anything completely new. I’m glad to say this collection passes the test. Prose poems, crossing out, odd and uneven spacing, lots of split lines. And unusually for a short collection of thirty poems, division into five sections, the titles of which all appear as lines in the final poem.

Jordan Hamel’s backers have done a great job getting some endorsements from some top-flight kiwi poets – Hera Lindsay Bird, whose website contact details say she will not blurb your book, Tracey Slaughter who never, ever, minces words and Tayi Tibble, our latest superstar export to the USA.

Reviewer: Marcus Hobson

Dead Bird Books


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