I Will Never Break

19 August 2021

I Will Never Break
by Jesse A. Murray
Published by Off the Field Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.99 ISBN 9-781775-194637

As a writing instructor, mentor, and literary contest judge, I’ve spent countless hours reading the introspective work of novice writers and have found there are a few common themes, ie: failed romance, uncertainty about one’s purpose in life, and alienation. Putting pen to page is an act of bravery in and of itself; sharing one’s personal thoughts, fears, and dreams with others in a self-published collection is top-shelf courageous, and – with a heavy concentration on the above themes – that’s exactly what writer and secondary school teacher Jesse A. Murray has done.

In I Will Never Break, Murray’s debut poetry book – he previously published two baseball-themed novels – the Saskatchewan-based writer has collected poems written on “scraps of paper” and in journals between 2007 and 2010 and bound them in a book with a gorgeous cover: a winter tree in silhouette against a blue-grey sky. Note: Murray was between the ages of 18 and 22 when these poems were written, and this is not a typical, contemporary poetry collection. “This poetry collection was collected unchanged and displayed in chronological order, and as a result, a natural story unfolds,” he states on his website (jesseamurray.com).

There is much diversity in the structure of the poems, ie: quatrains, prose poems, stanza-less, couplets, but all are centred on the page and almost every one rhymes. “It’s amazing to me that I actually have enough material to fill a poetry collection, without me actually realizing how much I actually wrote at that time,” he writes in the introduction. He adds that more poetry collections are forthcoming.

Murray’s indeed been prolific: at 161 pages, this is a hefty poetry collection. Some of the poems offer blanket encouragement to readers – “Be who you are and live for today,/Never give up and do it exactly your way./Believe in yourself and live entirely in the moment,/Hold on to every second, it’s yours, you own it” – while others examine the poet’s personal fears (including fear of death and not leaving a legacy) and desires, reflect a faith in God, and illustrate a season of unhappiness with titles like “One Single Tear,” “Followed the Tears I Cried,” and “A Struggle”. He writes: “I never let others in, no matter how hard they tried,/The fact is no one could survive, such a rough ride.”

What frequently shines through the poems is Murray’s passion for writing. In his piece “Writing (A Part of My Life),” he begins: “My whole life I’ve been writing, word after word,/And now I don’t want to be forgotten,/I want to be heard.” Another poem, “Author of My Life,” also addresses this compulsion: “The pen is my mind,/and the page is my life./Whatever happens for me,/It all depends on what I write.”

FOMO is a trendy acronym. It means Fear of Missing Out, and though Murray writes “I’m afraid of missing out on so much,/Because I was afraid to try,” what he’s certainly not missed is the opportunity to honestly express both the darkness and light within himself.


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