This book was written by an author who was once afraid to speak to people, but has now, in the last year,performed to an audience of over 3000, and bagged a weekly "Poet’s Corner”column in his local paper. Poetry has completely transformed his life.
Joel Duncan began writing poems because he felt a need to explain the world, both to himself, and to his young peers. "Teenage” is often a word that arrives with its own bad rep and baggage. We all know, don’t we, that teenagers can’t bear to be surgically removed from their Iphones and never tidy their room,right? Some people wince at the very mention of the word, especially if it’s combined with that other contentious word, "poetry”.
Perhaps we’re forgetting that your teenage years are the forge, the crucible, from which we emerge, gleaming and newly minted, on the track that so often then determines the course of the rest of our lives. So, they are important years after all, and maybe we should be interested in this poetry. Especially Joel Duncan’s work. In this, his first collection, Calderdale’s official Young Poet Laureate addresses and grapples with the issues which affect people of his age, and they are found to be surprisingly wide-ranging and deep. Moreover, he does this honestly and unflinchingly,addressing topics such as self-image and self-awareness, life on social media,bullying, friendship, and many other preoccupations that will ring true with his contemporaries.
It’s not, however, some sort of repetitive, generic rant – far from it. There’s something intensely introspective and personal running through these poems which goes way beyond the stereotypical teenage caricature of "it’s not fair.” He’s a poet who is not afraid to hold up both himself, and the world as he sees it, to inspection, often with revealing results. One of the hallmarks of good poetry is its ability to open up the door and welcome you in, showing you the poet’s view of their internal landscape, with all its quirks and foibles, and then to surprise you by demonstrating the universality behind the experience.
So, those who dismiss poetry about and by people under the age of twenty should maybe think again. This book is the first formal utterance by a fresh new voice, and it is a voice you will be hearing much more in the future.
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