Title – Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet
Author – Cameron Conaway
Rating – 5/5 Stars
“Accomplished MMA fighter and award-winning writer Cameron Conaway presents in Caged the true story of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the cerebral world of poetry and writing. It teaches the value of personal reflection, how life’s most painful moments can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of human nature, and just what is possible when optimism and determination combine to overcome tough odds. Caged shows how the pursuit of two seemingly disparate passions helped a struggling boy blossom into a simple man. The result is a literary and lyrical philosophical journey into the heart and mind of a modern-day warrior.” (description from Goodreads)
This memoir of Cameron Conaway’s life touched me in ways that other books haven’t come close to. Setting aside how much of myself I saw in Conaway’s life (mainly relationship with the father,) there are just positive things to say about it as a whole.
From the beginning of the book, all the way through to the end, the style of the writing was unique for me. It felt like Conaway wasn’t writing an account of his life for others to read later. To me it felt like he was sitting in front of me having a conversation, almost like an interview instead of a prose account. This is was refreshing and very welcoming to me as a reader when many memoirs, while still great in their own right, can merely put the story on paper but not actually touch too deeply.
Something else that aided in the conversational feeling I got was how honest the book felt. I didn’t find a section in the book that felt embellished or distorted to make Cameron or anyone else into a “stronger” or “better” human being. When there was a need to show a negative aspect of himself, Conaway included it. When he accomplished something, it was in there, but the reader wasn’t forced to praise him excessively in the way it was worded. The reader can read the book without having to feel out where there could be untruths.
I would also like to address the addition of poetry throughout the book. With Conaway being an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter and poet, it was only fitting to show both aspects of himself. Along with the poetry there was a great overview of some history of various forms of MMA, such as a specialty of Conaway’s, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I went into this book knowing next to nothing about MMA and thinking I’d only relate with the book because of the poetry aspect. I was proven wrong in the end. The sport of fighting is shown in a different light from which it has normally been presented to me. There is a beauty and an art in the sport and its various components (training, conditioning, etc.)
If Cameron Conaway is to write another memoir as a continuation of this, I will be one of the first wanting to read it. This is the same for his poetry. I greatly enjoyed both in this book and would suggest everyone in need of a great read to pick up this book.
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About the Author:
Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and a creative writing instructor at Penn State Brandywine. While serving as the Poet-in-Residence at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand, Conaway wrote Malaria, Poems (MSU Press, 2014), the first full-length book of contemporary poetry about malaria’s impact on the world. He’s a Rotary International End Polio Now “HistoryMaker” and a former Executive Editor at The Good Men Project. He currently serves on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today.
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