Not Here to Stay
Off The Field Publishing / 4 January 2023

Not Here To Stayby Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.99 ISBN 9-781775-194682 Frank Sinatra famously sang “I did it my way,” and Saskatchewan teacher and writer Jesse A. Murray can echo this sentiment when it comes to Not Here To Stay, which echoes the themes of alienation, unworthiness, freedom, loneliness and a fierce desire to be remembered that Murray explored in his earlier self-published poetry collection, I Will Never Break. The book’s black cover is overlaid with a white cityscape, as if we’re seeing city lights on a dark night. This is symbolic, as throughout this book Murray jumps between dark and light musings—some as short as a single line, several just two or three lines—and in his Introduction he discusses his search to find a place where he felt he belonged as he wrote these poems. “I found myself in many different places, and I always knew that I wasn’t there to stay.” After two months in Nashville, he saw “what it was like for people that followed their dreams.” This collection reads like an intimate journal. It’s to be noted, however, that Murray includes the disclaimer that “This book is a work…

Falls Into Place
Off The Field Publishing / 16 December 2022

Falls Into Placeby Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$14.99 ISBN 9-781777-591328 Saskatoon writer and teacher Jesse A. Murray recently released his sixth book, the poetry collection Falls Into Place. While many writers toil several years over a single book, this prolific writer has self-published five poetry collections between 2020 and 2022—this could be a record! As the title suggests, his poems just seem to “fall into place,” and this proved especially true during the global pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, my life changed. My writing changed. I had to work from home … I started to go through all of my piles of writing that I hadn’t looked at in years,” he states, and says that most of the poems in this book were written “before bed”. Transitions also included a new job, a marriage, and impending fatherhood. I’m familiar with Murray’s work via two of his other poetry collections—I Will Never Break and Not Here To Stay—and find many similarities here. Physically, they’re large poetry collections, and the oft-rhyming poems tend toward introspection—and, specifically, not quite measuring up to the yardstick the narrator’s set for himself. The first several poems hint at a…

Love or Baseball
Off The Field Publishing / 11 February 2022

Love or Baseball?by Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview by Toby A. Welch$21.99 ISBN 9781775194613 This is not a claim I make lightly in the first quarter of the year – Love or Baseball? will be on my top 10 list of books in 2022. If you are looking for a gripping read that starts with a coming-of-age story that morphs into the turmoil of adult life, look no further! In a nutshell, this book tells the story of a boy growing up with a father whose dream was for his son to make it to Major League Baseball. The boy lives, breathes, and dreams baseball. He has no chance to think of anything other than baseball. As often happens, he falls in love in high school and his girlfriend takes some of his attention away from the little white ball. As he finishes school and looks forward to what is next in his life, he is torn between his love for the sport and his love for his lady. This book is a slow burn. Murray takes us through the years with no hurry in his pacing. Clocking in at 423 pages in the softback version, he…

Never Found
Off The Field Publishing / 9 December 2021

Never Found: A Poetry Collectionby Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview by Amanda Zimmerman$14.99 ISBN 9781775194668 Jesse A. Murray, a Saskatchewan poet and high school teacher, follows up his debut collection, I Will Never Break , with this second assortment of poems exploring different perspectives, thoughts, and ideas. Never Found is stuffed full of verses ranging from the raw to the soulful, the bittersweet to the bitter. The compositions evoke a variety of emotions—both dark and pure—and Murray even hazards to tackle some of the more heart wrenching, touchy subjects. Murray has the gift of knowing when to boldly declare the emotion he is desiring to provoke or gently nudge his readers into discovering it for themselves through his phrasing. Isn’t it always more gratifying, as a reader, when you can dip into your own experiences through someone else’s writing? That is the craft of a talented writer. Unfortunately, one of Mr. Murray’s greatest regrets is having kept his writing unpublished for so many years. He has done his best to course correct through the amount of works he has sent out into the world over the last few years and, as he finds his writer’s footing, the…

I Will Never Break
Off The Field Publishing / 19 August 2021

I Will Never Breakby Jesse A. MurrayPublished by Off the Field PublishingReview 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,…