Bad Jamie drinks too much, takes pills swiped from his uncle, and is a bane to his whole family. Even in death, his grandmothers can't quit trying to take care of him; they come back as woodpeckers and circle through his life with disapproving guidance. They are some of the few who see a beauty buried deep in Bad Jamie's soul. The rest of Bad Jamie's world is populated by other shapeshifting women, a son who sets fire with his angry footsteps, and family who are only a tiny step removed from their lush southern Appalachian environment. Bad Jamie's world is tinted by the magic that comes from those low, old mountains. Author Jessica Fordham Kidd draws upon her love of her family's home place and a storytelling tradition to create the characters and landscapes in the narrative poetry of Bad Jamie.
Jessica Fordham Kidd is a lifelong Alabamian. She teaches for the English department at the University of Alabama and also serves as the Associate Director of the First-Year Writing Program.
This is the truth of a far-away look. In an astounding series of magical realist poems, Bad Jamie fashions the collective memory of a wounded southern family. With deft and uncannily fluid poems, Kidd constructs a world that resonates. Here, the animals, half-humans (and beings in between) may never exit rooms, in spirit nor physically: they remain and exist in several iterations of themselves. Kidd is deliberate in her characterization of Bad Jamie, a ne’er-do-well who wanders the outside world, orbiting his family and the children he’s neglected.
Bad Jamie is a revisionist’s impulse, reflective of dreams we carry of our families, our histories and our possible selves.
— Kwoya Fagin Maples, author of Mend
In Jessica Kidd’s debut collection, multiform Jamies and eldritch Granny-birds ruckus, pine, wreck, and yearn their way through a Southern Gothic landscape. The narrative light of these poems shines into corners of existence that American poetry, with its baked-in class snobbery, too often ignores — Bad Jamie’s pills run out, Town Clarence whoops his “daughter’s mean ass boyfriend,” a single dog is passed as a talisman of hard-won hope through an entire family tree. Kidd’s earthy, embodied imagery and incisive ear create moments of empathy and reckoning that defy assimilation into pat cultural narratives. She imbues her language and characters with a fierce and transformative love, a “red streaking / through the blue with all the power / that getting loose / after years of tethering / can give you.”
— Tim Earley, author of Linthead Stomp