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10 July 2024

Back Home: A Poetry Collection
by Jesse A. Murray
Published by Off the Field Publishing
Review by Toby A. Welch  
$14.99 ISBN 9781777591304

Poetry. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I want to love it as I value the idea and the beauty of it. The dance of the words on the page and in my mind is melodious. But I usually end up disliking it, getting bored before I get more than a dozen pages into a book of poetry. But that was not a problem with Back Home. I devoured each poem and was bummed out when I turned the last page.

Poetry is challenging for me as it can be monotonous. Page after page of six or eight lines, all of them a similar length and tone. That did not happen in Back Home, which I found refreshing. Some poems were in paragraph format, some were just a line or two. Most were somewhere in between with almost all of them coming in at one page or less. The variety, length, and style of Murray’s poems kept things spicy.

I tried to pick a favourite poem, but that was impossible to do. Two of the ones I loved best had similar titles – Open Our Eyes and Open Your Eyes. Both talked about being more aware in our lives and living in the moment, as well as becoming better in the future. They were a great reminder of something we already know but can forget in the day to day grind. As I share how I interpreted the poems, I acknowledge that one of the best things about poetry is that everyone views the words in their own way. 

Another favourite poem, Last Song, talks about breaking free from a person that has too strong of a hold on them. It is so eloquently written and intensely compelling. Even short poems like Blank Page, which clocks in at eight words, held so much power that I felt smacked in the head. Murray has an intimate way with words that impressed me all the way through Back Home.

Speaking of words, another upside for this poetry collection is that Murray didn’t feel a need to use superfluous and ostentatious words to impress his audience (see what I did there!) He kept things simple, a collection of words that we use in our everyday lives. Somehow that gave the words more meaning as we can focus on the undertone of what he is saying instead of pondering the definitions of the words he uses. I appreciate that in any poetry collection.

Based solely on his intriguing writing style, Saskatoon-based Murray’s other four books are already on my “want to read” list. (He previously published a novel and three poetry collections.) My bookshelf is about to get heavy!


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