You’ve heard of coming-of-age novels. British poet Arran James Grant may have written a coming-of-age poetry collection.
As I was reading his recently published Mania, I kept thinking to myself that these are the poems of a young man. And they clearly are, with many of the 52 poems about love and relationships. But Mania is also a bit more than that. It’s a collection of poetry by a young man who knows he’s writing about the experiences of being a young man. The poems have a deliberateness, a self-consciousness that tells you they aren’t only poems about love but poems about looking back and understanding what’s happened.
Each poem is relatively short; each line is page-centered with the barest number of words. They’re infused with a sense of popular culture, especially film and music (two poems are named “Music,” in fact). And the poems communicate a sense of knowledge and loss and knowledge of loss. All of which means the poet is standing on the other side, looking back, taking stock, and making sense of what’s happened. This isn’t necessarily about lost love or loves; it can be about a realistic assessment of childhood dreams.
We used to
on school paper
just in case
for our names
were ever needed
we would sign them
like a Hollywood
Grant captures a common experience — the practice of signing one’s name, something that most if not all of us have done in our youth. We might have been dreaming of Hollywood, or another kind of fame and renown. Years later, we can remember what we did and smile.
The poems capture a sense of the strong emotions that run through our lives.
Mania is Grant’s first collection of poetry. A native of Scotland, Grant is a poet and writer; he’s currently working on a short story collection. He cites Charles Bukowski, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King, and Ernest Hemingway, among others, as influences (but I don’t find a sense of Stephen King anywhere in his poems). He lives in Aberdeen.
The poems of Mania aren’t nostalgic as much as they are an assessment of youth, the loves of youth, the relationships with old friends, and the music we listened to and can still cite the lyrics of. We have these thoughts whether we’re 30 or pushing 70, because we’re always trying to make sense of our lives.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish