Jane Frances Dunlop on ‘Bad Boy Poet’ by Scott Manley Hadley



“the ideal reader is one who is in love with the writer”
Chris Kraus, I Love Dick

the first time I read the poems I am in the library, trying to finish something that I am in the middle of the end of at that point. and we are practicing supporting each other: I remember a day when you pick me up and promise me that when I finish, you will take me somewhere to pet new animals and I cried because it seemed impossible. on a different day, you send me your poems and I think you’d been avoiding it because I had to ask more than once. and then I read them and read them all again and laughed and cried and knew I was in love with you. it is impossible to have an opinion about someone you are in love with, or at least it is obvious what that opinion is.

Hadley’s poems are about sex, depression, technology and feelings. They are about sickness and more sickness, about the shit world that a person makes for themselves and the shit the world brings. They move quick and sharp, are sometimes so smooth and sometimes tearing. You fall into the rhythm of the book, sad but distant and playful, a tone of self-mocking tragedy that lands in moments of heartbreaking clarity.

one time, we are sitting in the apartment that we have, it is a small apartment and so I am on the bed and you are at the table and we are only a few metres apart. we are drunk, have been drinking so much wine and you are performing for me. because I have asked, you perform all the poems that are about me and in between, as you flick through the pages of your book, you sing my name.

another time, you read me the poems in the middle of an arid spanish landscape, and I film you and the light is amazing and you are gorgeous and it is fun to be in the world with you.

It is the poems about his parents’ illness and old age that stand out in the collection: not as the best poems (though they are some of the best). These poems are instances of weight and severity that cannot be folded into the sometimes cruelly mischievous tone with which Hadley writes about the things that are more immediately his (his depression, his breakup, his poo, his sexuality, his dog). They ground the collection, the severity of everything is refracted through them. They remind a person that everything can be made light of, even the heaviest things.

the night you tell me you love me, we are at your friend’s house and you write a note on a piece of paper to remind yourself to take all the cunnilingus poems out. this is before I read it. in the end, the cunnilingus poems will all go back in.

I check my emails: you sent me the poems before we were in love out loud. the email subject is Poems [gulp]. i didn’t know I was in love with you then though, which is hard to believe from the present because I love you in all directions. I love you when I first met you and we are working in that bar and there is one night when you make me a sour and someone passes it into the cellar where I am organising the stock.

Hadley writes sex, technologies and drugs like a millennial. All three exist as necessary and persistent parts of life, entangled with one another and with social life while also being ambivalent forces. They bring the good, the release, the positive possibilities of another. And they bring the bad, the confirmation of our worst parts through their inevitability and persistence. Though technology gets off lighter than sex or drugs here, which seems important. And depression seems an important part of these mix, as it is cause and effect, cured and worsened by sex, drugs and technology. It is as the poems cross through these things – these things cross through the poems – that the frictions of millennial masculinity get captures and presented so perfectly. There is the toxicity, with the damage it does, and there is the possibility of being elsewise.

this time, I am reading them again in the future: we finished the endings we were in the middle of and now we are in the beginning of the future and it is scary and exciting and begins in the small apartment. I am in my new library, reading your poems in a book: it is now an object in my hand and that seems different, is different to the first time.

I read the poems, to write a review about them like I promised, but all I come up with are moments when I read them before which are all just moments when I loved you. even though I know these poems are not about me or you, they are fiction. it says so in the cover.


Jane Frances Dunlop (CA) is an artist and writer whose work explores the overlapping politics of emotion and technology via the internet. Her work is online at: http://janefrancesdunlop.com


Bad Boy Poet by Scott Manlet Hadley is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Poet-Scott-Manley-Hadley

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