“Like everyone else I know, I read this book at one sitting, enthralled, taken to worlds I was lucky to have escaped, but as any women knows, the margin is... [continued in Reviews below]”—Sharon, Goodreads.com
A twenty-three part poetic sequence; a working-class mother speaks passionately of the more than four decades of personal history that binds her with her emotionally-troubled and estranged son
Little Boy Blue is a lyrically-charged dramatic monologue in the voice of a mother to her absent son. In twenty-three movements, the speaker reveals the facts, feelings, textures, perspectives and sensations that inform this most personal and intense relationship, one that survives betrayal, abandonment, neglect, mental illness and other calamities of contemporary American life. Occupying the ground between poetry and prose, and with an ever-gathering momentum and passionate intensity, Jacobik examines motherhood, sanity, and heartbreakingly tender, resilient love.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Like everyone else I know, I read this book at one sitting, enthralled, taken to worlds I was lucky to have escaped, but as any women knows, the margin is slim separating us from poverty and despair, revealed here in Jacobik's clear style, hard-hitting but attuned to language that raises hair on the forearms. Every moment here is microscopic in orientation, as if the poet peered into the eyepiece with a trained eye, bringing us unforgettable scenes of her life with her beautiful but heart-breaking son, as if we were sitting right beside her, holding her hand. Raw, riveting, linguistically challenging as all her work is, and real, very real indeed.”—Sharon, Goodreads.com
In her eighth book, poet Gray Jacobik plunges readers deep inside the story of a mother looking back on her life with her first-born, a son born when she was still a teen. Written as one poem in twenty-three separate movements, Little Boy Blue: A Memoir in Verse confronts Jacobik's story with brutal honesty and the underlying message that, while wrongs cannot be undone, they can be confessed to bring about healing.
The poem begins with straightforward acknowledgement that the narrator tried to rid herself of her pregnancy, taking thirty quinine pills that left her in a coma for days. She says: "Roe vs. Wade hadn't/happened or you'd not have been born." From this moment on, readers come to understand that this is a very particular memoir in that it is addressed to "you," her son who is born bipolar and with ADHD.
Throughout the poem, Jacobik takes readers from the moment of conception ("my doing—the bed I'd made…/Not a bed. The front seat of a 1956 Chevrolet Sedan.") to the son's often difficult adult years and eventual estrangement from his mother ("Oh wary malcontent, recluse at ease when/your world is small enough to ignore, be safe./May you have, near at hand, whatever you need."). The poet never holds back from revealing every particle of the truth, no matter how bad—or human— it looks. Likewise, this truth-telling also lets Jacobik venture into the sentimental at times, a necessary and believable counterbalance for everything weighty in the poem.
In addition to taking on such difficult and intimate subject matter, Jacobik shows her skill at throwing readers right inside a moment, sudden as a scrap of memory appearing in one's mind. Moreover, the sheer variety of emotions explored and the approaches that Jacobik takes (from poems written like reportage to stream-of-consciousness poems that eschew punctuation) keep the tension high and easily hold readers' attention throughout the book-length poem.
Part of LaurelBooks, CavanKerry's Literature of Illness imprint, Little Boy Blue is a stunning collection that reaches far beyond the typical audience of poetry lovers. Perfect for public libraries, hospital libraries, and community centers, Little Boy Blue could change lives by letting people know that someone else has walked in such difficult shoes.—Jennifer Fandel, ForeWord
“Gray Jacobik dares to aim at integration, at re-membering. By the time Little Boy Blue accrues so artfully to its final lines (breaking like waves on the shore) it is more gratifying than a dozen sequences or series. The poem enacts the partly willed, partly allowed restor(y)ing of the past, beyond the false narrative of guilt and redemption.”—Richard Hoffman
From the Book:
You were a funny kid though, kept us in stitches.
You made up little rituals. Your grandfather
likes to tell of how you’d begin a left-right face,
arm-swinging goose-step march from wherever
you were into the bathroom, crying out hep-two,
hep-two. Once there you’d square off, click heels,
center yourself before the toilet, then bark out,
lid up! pants down! underpants down! then squirt!
reversing the order of your commands after the act
was done, your aim the usual aim of a four-year-
old. If your aunts & I were still laughing or
struggling not to when you marched back in,
you’d take umbrage & withdraw, for we were
to understand the seriousness of this. How I wish
I could, just once, kneel down before that boy,
as I would then, & apologize for laughing,
take you in my arms, kiss your cheek or forehead,
& hold your little body against mine.
No one was supposed to laugh at you,
but, my god, you were funny.
GRAY JACOBIK is an award-winning poet, teacher, and painter who lives in Deep River, Connecticut.