Paperback Price: $16.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-24-4

Selected Poem

Ask Where I've Been

Let fingers roam
the busy angles
of my shoulders.
Ask why skin dries
in rime-white patches, cracks
like a puddle stepped on. Ask
about the scars that interrupt
blacktop, a keloid on my bicep:
this fogged window. Ask how many
days passed before the eyebrow healed
after a metal spike was torn out,
uprooted lamppost in a tornado.
Ask about the tornado of fists.
The blows landed. If you can
watch it all—the spit and blood frozen
against snow, you can probably tell
I am the too-narrow road winding out
of a crooked city built of laughter,
abandon, feathers, and drums.
Ask only if you can watch streetlights bow,
bridges arc, and power lines sag,
and still believe what matters most
is not where I bend
but where I am growing.

The Big Book of Exit Strategies

Nominated for the 2017 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry

2017 Finalist for the PEN Open Book Award

“. . . each line seems to turn the next like a skeleton key opening an endless hallway of doors.”
Publishers Weekly

“Reading Jamaal May’s poetry you might find a map out of yourself, into the pistol-full avenues where love poems compose themselves on the precarious cliffs of the loveliest collarbones.”
—The Best American Poetry Blog

In The Big Book of Exit Strategies, the magic doesn’t stop. Each poem is nothing short of an adventure, each line more remarkable than the last.”
Nervous Poodle Poetry

“Jamaal May’s second poetry collection, The Big Book of Exit Strategies, is a tender force with serious reckoning.”
—San Diego Book Review

“[The Big Book of Exit Strategies] reads as a kind of love letter to hidden treasures and endearing battle scars, and the poems craftily deconstruct the ways that discourse reshapes or overlooks gorgeous and transformative moments…”
—Zone 3



  1. Bull Pen: 18 JANUARY 2016 – Bull City Press - January 18, 2016

    […] have new books due soon: francine j. harris, Play Dead (Alice James Books) & Jamaal May, The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books).  Emerging Writers Network has the list […]

  2. The Gun Joke | Fishouse - June 13, 2016

    […] at Bates College, March 23, 2016. It first appeared in Indiana Review, and is from the collection The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books, […]

  3. Reading Through The Pile – Liz Ahl - August 5, 2017

    […] I just wanted to say how pleased I was to see Jamaal May’s The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James, 2016) reviewed by Robert Campbell here. I’m a big fan of May’s work […]