Review: “THESE QUEER MERBOYS” by Serge Neptune

Published by Broken Sleep Books ISBN: 978-1-913642-03-7

Every once in a while you discover a thing of beauty. Never did I imagine I would find it so far out at sea

‘These Queer Merboys’ is the debut chapbook by British poet Serge Neptune. Published by Broken sleep books in 2020, it sits amongst a family of bold expressivists; poets and a poetry press that push unique voices. What is immediately engaging about this work is its ability to tread an incredibly delicate balance between legend and reality, folklore and the everyday. Essentially the author flips the mystique of the mermaid on its head, and it is the enigmatic merman that becomes the allure, the ruination, the object of desire. It is through this metaphorical approach that the author delivers his most powerful messages.

In terms of subject matter, Serge looks at the complexities of queer relationships, emotional turbulence, eroticism, and its navigation of such topics amongst sailors and land dwellers. At the deepest level it feels like an exploration of the burden of love on the soul. It is honest, painful and beautiful. This is evident within poems such as “last time my lover came Inside me” which tells the story of a man straying from marriage and lusting for another man. The perspective of the mermen as the tempter, the one who lures men away to their demise, is such a perfect vehicle for this to be construed. Of course, we know the point being made, but to frame it in this way is so unique and so masterfully constructed that it creates a sense of true relatability and empathy.

This can also be exemplified in “think of this as couples Therapy, he said” a poem that takes to task the ‘norms’ of love and relationships as being sensual, sacred, and everlasting. Instead it skillfully shows a different perspective, that love can be savage and greedy, that it can consume people whole, and the feelings of power and conversely powerlessness that this can instill.

All in all the author has published a fantastic debut, which for readers or writers who know the poetic gaze the ocean can conjure, its depth, its weight, its mystery, but also seek something that pushes boundaries, then this body of work will hold immense appeal. Serge has created a world of infinite creative depth that he leverages with a distinct colour and balance. It is his blending of the oceanscapes and mythical creatures with the reality of subject matters not often confronted that makes this so important. You will get pulled in, you will sink in its lucidity, you will be swept away in its esotericism.

In summary “THESE QUEER MERBOYS” is a thoughtful , provocative, but highly personal poetic journey, written with a real craft that knows all of the right sensual buttons to press. It moves through stricter constructions, storytelling, as well as what feels like stream of consciousness, all of which are excellently built and with heartfelt detail. Finally, the whole thing is finished beautifully, wrapped in a striking blue cover with turquoise typeset. It is this attention to the whole that makes the chapbook sing in your hands. I would highly recommend adding this to your collection, and then staying in touch with this up and coming poetic talent.

Review by Stuart McPherson , November 2020

You can reach Serge Neptune on Twitter @mermanpoet

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