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Distributed for CavanKerry Press

When Did We Stop Being Cute?

A coming-of-age collection set to the music of the 1980s and 90s.

This novel in poetic form tells the story of a young man dealing with the challenges of growing up mixed-race in 1980s suburbia. In this time of change, both for himself and the world around him, he seeks to “remember / just when I stopped being cute…”

Narrating run-ins with the police (“The minute they see me, fear me”) and confrontations with himself, the speaker in this collection must learn to navigate a world that sees him as a threat. When Did We Stop Being Cute? reflects on the beauty and horrors of life in the United States, telling a personal story that shows Black lives and how they matter.

112 pages | 6 x 9


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“Rhythmic, musical, and at times nostalgic for a past that never was, Martin Wiley’s poetry offers a piercing view into the life of a young mixed man as he processes his world, his grief, with nuance, biting humor, and brutal honesty, using the microcosms of a school, a deli, a neighborhood, to examine the fraught experiences of minorities in America.”

Jeni McFarland, author of ‘The House of Deep Water’

“An artist tells us who they are through their work. At times this telling is subtle, and then there are times it is bold and brazen. In Martin Wiley’s When Did We Stop Being Cute?, the repetition of the theme of ‘coming of age’ is turned on its head. This transition from boyhood to adolescence for a young black male from a mixed racial background is fraught with peril, substance dependency, and difficult choices. There are juxtapositions between first kisses with pep rally backdrops and wanting ‘to drown in the miracle of my own survival.’ These poems reveal a truth that we should be honored to witness. The lies that America tells itself about the serenity and safety of the American suburb are laid bare for all to see. The false bravado of empty masculinity is examined and left wanting.”

DuiJi Mshinda, poet and author of 'Traces of Inifinity'

Table of Contents

Part One: The minute they see me, fear me

Prologue: Early evening at the abandoned school
We can’t afford to be innocent
There ain’t no need for ya
Peace is a dream (Kids in America pt. 1)
All alone with you makes the butterflies in me arise
Kind hearts don’t make a news story (KiA pt. 2)
Something like a phenomenon
Forever’s gonna start tonight (KiA pt.3)
Jimmy Got Nothing made himself a name (KiA pt. 4)
If I could find a souvenir just to prove the world was here (KiA pt. 5)
After: math

Part Two: Hey kid walk straight, master your high

Prologue: Late night at the abandoned school
Look right through me, look right through me
Glory days, or The true story of two guys coming down a mountain
And we mean to go on and on and on
Past the days of yes y’allin’
We’re all ice cream castles in the summer time
A self-made monster
Yeah yeah they do it all the time
Unruly boys who will not grow up
After: shock

Part Three: But life is just a party & parties weren’t meant to last

Prologue: Early morning at the abandoned school
The world is collapsing around our ears
Subtle innuendo follows
(And so, by the way, I thank you)
When they reminisce over you
A white hot spotlight
You, you said you’d wait until the end of the world
We still play our little games

Epilogue: I thought we’d get to see forever...

Excuse me for a moment, I’m in another world
You don’t have to worry about me
After: all


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