Hi Mary, Recently I got stuck in Toronto in the snow and ended up in a hotel not too far from the old Gaol that made me think of Grandpa and your book. It was such a fascinating read – such hardship explains much. Harrowing. But a brave and elegant hybrid of poetry and biography that blurs many boundaries.

Professor Frank Neat, World Maritime University, Malmo University, 

Grandson of Jim Neat

Mary J. Oliver’s style of writing is reminiscent of W.G. Sebold. The absence of Oliver’s father is made very present in the relationships that she found along her journey. It shows the therapeutic possibilities of tracing the uncertainty of memories which allow for the rewriting (righting) of the relationship with the absent parent.

Dr Salma Siddique, clinical anthropologist and psychotherapist

Mary J. Oliver’s decision to write a ‘narrative poem’ rather than a conventional family history is crucial to the book’s success. Spare and concise, with many voices speaking in different genres, the personal story steadily expands with historical significance.  


While there are echoes in the title of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, the bleak days of the Great Depression in western Canada and the rise of Fascism in Europe are also powerfully evoked.   


I like the way documents – letters, photos, etc – are reproduced raw. I don’t know if they are all authentic or if in fact the book is mostly fiction, and it does not matter.  


I wish Sinclair Ross could have lived to read this story.  It would have impressed him a lot in his life-long dedication to more spare forms of writing.

David Stouck, Prof of English Literature, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Comment from Jay Coleman, guitarist: 'Having heard you read  from 'Jim Neat' at St Just Library last night, I’ve been having a good look at 'Bliss', such a lovely poem with a great story, a strong sense of character and imagery that lends itself well to a sort of low key finger-picked acoustic ballad. Which is the route I’ve been going down.


'It would be an honour to play along to you as an acoustic accompaniment. And the letters lend themselves to lyrical/musical content too. Either way I wouldn’t want to detract from the words of the poem(s) or the story. Hopefully it would be a good additional layer to the original intention of your book.'

Jay Coleman, Song Writer

Comment from Clare Owen: Heard @mjoliver4 reading from ‘Jim Neat’ @NCornBookFest today. A fusion of one man’s history & his daughter’s imagination; poetry, photographic images & fragments of prose. I’ve never come across memoir approached like this. Bought the book, 30 pages in, & already blown away ... 

Clare Owen, Author

Comment from poet Abigail Elizabeth Rowland: The Morrab Library  was the venue this morning for the launch of our local Stanza group’s anthology of poems inspired by Cornwall. Also readings from Mary Oliver’s excellent new book, Jim Neat. Fantastic writing and a wonderfully compelling story. Don’t miss your chance to buy the book.

Abigail Elizabeth Rowland, Writer and Poet

Comment from Julia Webb-Harvey: I heard Mary J. Oliver read from Jim Neat at North Cornwall Book Festival and have just devoured her book. She describes it as a long narrative poem; I wish it could be a play. I hear so many voices, so clearly. Wonderful, wonderful work.

Julia Webb-Harvey @juleswh

What empathy! The hardship of people’s lives, distance, love. Love mainly. Each separate part captivated me completely. I was perfectly in control until I read the simplest of sentences, that was so loaded.: ‘Within an hour Mary was conceived’: an infinite instant linkingpast, present and future. The moment I read it I was THEM and sobbed for ten minutes. It felt as if I’d lived through their story in some other life. There are thousands of immigrants and desperate people not far from here, always have been, always will be … this is just one … it overwhelmed me. Thanks Mary.

Francesca Ausenda, artist and photographer

Thanks for great reading Mary; can’t wait to get my hands on your book.

Kate Jones, Owner of Daisy Laing Gallery, Penzance

A heartfelt thank you to inspirational poet Mary J. Oliver, for giving us all her debut Jim Neat: The Case Of A Young Man Down On His Luck. The book opens up the multi-layered possibilities of memoir, documentary, fiction and poetry as she explores the mysteries of her tragic father's life. I've been privileged to read it before publication and after: it is a testament to committing to your instinct, to digging to the truth in whatever form is most appropriate, and to one woman's handling of the ethical issues associated with writing about family. It's also a beautiful read.

Cathy Galvin, founder of Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award; the UK national short story organisation; Word Factory, and its mentoring award, The Word Factory Apprentice Award; and curator of the UK’s first literary festival focussed on citizenship: Citizen:

The New Story.

A fascinating true story. I think it would make an amazing epic movie (or TV serial).

Christopher Morley, artist and writer

I read this memoir in a two hour sitting before bed. I couldn’t put it down! I cried. Such a beautiful, powerful, complex, moving story so carefully and poetically woven. A haunting, tragic love story at its heart. I hope it’s widely read and celebrated. Thanks for bringing it into the world!

Rebecca Promitzer, film producer and writer

An incredible story.  Couldn't put it down. Unforgettable scenes and testimonies... Glimpses into a forgotten and harsh world where personal stories play out and leave only delicate fragments for the future to put together. An extremely moving and compelling read.

Mary Acheson, teacher

Compelling and breathtaking - in its scope and in its intimacy. Once I started this journey, I had to continue reading to the end. Spare and concentrated - not a line that is superfluous. While the subject is 'Jim Neat', I was drawn to the emotions of his daughter, the author, who comes into her own in Part 111, 'Found'.

Jenny Headlam-Wells, Labour Party Councillor for Kentish Town

This is an extraordinarily tender, yet unflinching, tale, beautifully written in prose and poetry. My heart broke for Jim Neat’s tragic life, and sang for his brave triumphs. Simply lovely.


Poetry Cafe was the perfect cosy cocoon for Seren Books’ excursions to faraway places with Mary J. Oliver's Dad (Jim Neat: The Case of a Young Man Down on his Luck), signing up to sail for South Africa, stowaway-ing off to Oz, finding love in Saskatoon, brought to life for us through Amy Wack's wide-ranging, delving-deep interview questions. Excellent event!

Anne-Marie Fyfe creative-writing teacher, arts-organiser & former Chair of the Poetry Society ,

The poems are incredible. A wonderful, engaging read. It gives depth to his life and ours.

Caroline Neat, Jim Neat’s grand-daughter in Canada

Jim Neat is top of my ‘must buy, must read’ list.

Geoff Cox, writer and film maker

It’s like a sauce that’s been deliciously reduced.

Deborah Came, magistrate

Had to read this from start to finish today. Great work.

Soo Finch @soopoftheday

I felt it read as a quest to honour the humanity of those the author was following, people doing their best by each other in very challenging times; an inspiring and compassionate account, much needed in dispiriting times!  An act of devotion!

Hilary Beard


I just love this book; the poems, so beautiful, so interesting, so fascinating. Sad but full of love. The reader wants to meet Jim ... this story gives him back his life.  

Birgitta Lundmark, Swedish Lawyer

A lovely, engaging reading, local and international in scope, a pleasure to experience.

Tim Ridley, artist

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