Introduction to Clouds Cannot Cover Us
With my new collection, Clouds Cannot Cover Us, just days away, here’s a sneak peek at the introduction of the book:
We are incredibly proud at Troika to be publishing this new collection by Jay Hulme, a poet we admire profoundly and a person we have loved working with.
We think he has a unique voice and form of expression. We believe that the utter sincerity of his writing, and his voice, is strikingly powerful and deeply thought provoking. We believe Jay’s voice is one that should be heard.
Jay says: When it was decided this collection would be for teenagers I was left with this determination, that this collection wouldn’t speak down to anyone, that the world I portrayed within it would be the world we live in, that there would be no attempt to make reality “appropriate for children”. People seem to forget that teenagers live in the same world as everyone else, and they face the same struggles adults face every day. Teenagers deal with racism and sexism and disability and poverty and so much more that we don’t even see. The things that are traditionally seen as inappropriate for young people to see, are so often the same things they experience day to day.
I remember growing up as a confused working class, transgender, young carer, and never seeing anything in literature that acknowledged any of those things. I accept that in recent years literature has become braver, with books acknowledging those things being published, but the world has also got undeniably scarier and more divisive in those years too. Despite the growth of bigotry and hatred, despite all the economic and cultural uncertainty, there’s still this pervasive idea that young people should be relentlessly happy, that these years should be their best; but that’s not how it works.
Some of the poems are based on, or re-worked versions of, poems I wrote when I was still in high school. Poems about the fear, and anger, and burning sense of injustice that I felt, when I looked out at the world as a teenager, and saw not only this encroaching cloud of darkness, but a constant unwillingness among those who could do something about that darkness to listen to young people like me. I think it’s true that nobody listens to young people, not really. When they claim to do so, it’s almost always tokenistic and patronising, but age has nothing to do with the worth of people’s opinions and words. Just because someone is young, that doesn’t negate their anger, or their fear, or the views they hold, and it is important to remember, and accept, that some of the views expressed in these poems, were originally formed when I was between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.
My aim, with this book, was to create something that acknowledges the dark, and the fear, and the cruelty that is all around us, but to address the fact that all is not lost, that young people are the future, not just as a clichéd saying, but as an undeniable truth. I wanted to share the truth I found in my own experience, that there is still good to be found in the world, so long as you’re willing to look for it. The layout of the collection is a journey, from confusion, and fear, and anger, to hope. The poems continue, as I have done, on a journey, from the terror of a future empty of hope, to a life that is absolutely full of it. Hope can only come from within, and to create it, you first have to accept the negatives. There cannot be hope, in a perfect world, because, in a perfect world, there would be no need for it. I have been damaged by this world. In my 22 years on this Earth I have seen people die before my eyes. I have seen people I love turn from me, simply because I’m transgender. I have run from who I am, and who the world wanted me to be. I have been the victim of hate crimes, and bureaucratic incompetence. But I have seen the world try to change, and I have cultivated, in myself, a rich vein of hope, and honestly, if I could live my life again, and live it without any of the fear, or pain, or horror I have felt, then I don’t think I would, because without that, I would be without hope. This book is about hope. Yes, there’s darkness, but darkness only exists in contrast to light. Without one, the other cannot exist.