Underdays: Poems by Martin Ott

Source: Bostick Communications
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Underdays: Poems by Martin Ott is a collection that seeks to dissect human motivations to love, to hate, to soldier on, and more.  His poems express this search through a dialogue within their lines and between one another, almost like people in deep conversation.  Readers may see this technique as an extension of his days as a U.S. Army interrogator, as Ott continues to dig deeper to find kernels of truth and fact.  He opens with a poem that examines the undercarriage of retirement, what does it mean to retire, how does it feel.  In the poem, it’s clear that there is an expectation about retirement that does not come to pass:

From "The Interrogator in Retirement" (pg. 3)

He wants to love recklessly
but his eyes remain desert
dry, unable to view clear skies
without seeing the curtains,

He examines this new found freedom with a critical eye. How do you move beyond what came before, even if you have no further obligations and you’re beholden to only yourself and your desires?  Ott creates tales that unfold and fold unto themselves, taking readers on winding journeys — much like those in real life that are never a straight line from point A to point B.  His images are fresh and nuanced, and will force readers to rethink their own perceptions of retirement, work, and death.

From "Survivor's Manual to Love and War" (pg. 6)

Death is a loving dog
with no children or chew toys
to occupy its attention.
It will lick you into submission,
this inevitable pack instinct,
to join the vast departed.

He examines what it means to face death and how alluring it can be when things are hopeless, but he also counters these examinations with a look at how much we do to stave off death and avoid it altogether just so we can eek out just a little bit more time with loved ones. Ott’s images will stay with readers long after poems are read, like a man who turns into “a dragon … sucking fumes in motor pools” or the clacking of Salinger’s typewriter on the battlefield sounding “like gold fillings against wet pavement.”

Some poems seem to be about the mundane, like why he doesn’t set the clock in his car or why he doesn’t carry an umbrella, but these poems, too, become something more — a time travel journey with kids or the hidden dangers of the umbrella and how it can die just from being opened.  Underdays: Poems by Martin Ott, winner of the , turns over the rocks in our lives to find the darkness, the humor, and the introspective nature we hide as we trudge through daily activities.

About the Poet:

Born in Alaska and raised in Michigan, Martin Ott served as an interrogator in U.S. Army military intelligence. He moved to Los Angeles to attend the Masters of Professional Writing Program at USC, and often writes about his adopted city, including in the novel The Interrogator’s Notebook (currently being pitched by Paradigm as a TV pilot) and poetry books Captive, De Novo Prize Winner, C&R Press and Underdays, Sandeen Prize Winner, University of Notre Dame Press (Fall 2015).

Social and political themes are prevalent in all of his books, particularly Poets’ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network, coauthored with John F. Buckley, Brooklyn Arts Press and his short story collection, Interrogations, Fomite Press (Spring 2016).







Thievery by Seth Abramson

Today marks the end of National Poetry Month, and I hope that you found some great poets and poetry collections to try this month. I’m especially pleased that we had so many participants for the Friday activities. See all of you next year for another blog tour of poetry, but I hope you’ll stick around for the rest of this year too. If you missed some of the posts this month, just click here and scroll through.

The action of the poems in Thievery by Seth Abramson, published by the University of Akron Press, occur in between the silences and the pauses of each line break and each trick phrase, highlighting the theft of what has been stolen.  From the innocence of our children to the rallying of small towns around their own even when the most horrifying things occur.  Abramson performs a sleight of hand in his poems, changing their trajectory at a moment’s notice, calling attention to the illusions that are around us everyday.

From "Chronophrenia, Part VII"

At the end of traveling
I wear the road.  Within my skin it is bad.
It's worst without --
the particulates of being nowhere entirely.
From "Chronophrenia, Part VIII," the poet asks:

Do you pay
for each silence, and if so
why start.  Can I admit this thing,
can I clothe myself
in something like it, is it time now.
Does the time come.  Does it ever.

Are we too afraid to speak up or to change the world around us and make it better, or have we just become too complacent.  This silence and complacency is a pervasive problem Abramson tackles in his poems and what the possible consequences of that silence is.  In “Only,” “If it moves/I see it coming, sometimes I do/I swear.  I have been in the places things/were coming true/that were unwanted, in places/things went/unwell, where things went and went//”  (page 37)  There is an unraveling that these poems want to bring into the light for closer examination, though it could be the unraveling of our morality or our societies — with some poems being more ambiguous than others.  Additionally, there are several poems that focus on the abuse of men at the hands of women, like in “Hometown Courage” where the man is held down by women and in “Poem for Battered Man.”

From "All You Ploughboys":

I am sure
to do something horrible.  Half the wood is
halfway there.
And half this town is half in love with itself,
but me I go all the way.

Thievery by Seth Abramson is subtle, and at times too much so, in its exploration of change throughout society and within individuals as it asks readers and others when is the time to stand up and to create change for a better world. When is the time for us to stop the thieving from others and ourselves? These are questions that should be asked and should be met with action.

About the Poet:
Seth Abramson is the author of The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). In 2008 he was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize by Poetry. A former public defender, he currently attends the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Please check out his blog.

Please click the image below for the latest tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour!

This is my 17th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

This is my 26th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Carnival by Jason Bredle

Carnival by Jason Bredle is weird.  In many ways it is like a grotesque and surreal little carnival with the fun house mirrors and the bearded lady — though in this case, the mirror is held by the narrator and the bearded lady is really a werewolf inside the narrator.  There is a self-deprecation and a dream-like quality to these prose poems, but in some cases, it seems like the poems are too weird just for the sake of it.  At other times, the poems are comments on pop culture.

“There’s a carnival in my skull and it’s driving me crazy.”  (page 32, from “The Killing”)

Readers will be taken on a ride in this volume of poems as Bredle creates a mood.  From confusion to frustration, readers will be inside the mind of a crazy person.  But in many ways, the craziness is just a mask for the discontent with the culture that has sprung up around the narrator.  And while some of these poems will take several reads before the meaning becomes clear, there are some great moments and lines that make an immediate impression on the reader.  From “Hole in My Heart,” “It looks like I’ll be cuddling up in the warm, soft arms of depression/against this winter.”  These lines set the stage for the tumbling feeling of loss and the mindlessness that accompanies a broken heart where you walk in a fog for days afterward.

A running image throughout the poems is the narrator’s cat, seemingly always providing comfort or just as distraction from the moment.  Traditionally, cats have symbolized independence or superiority, but it is unclear whether the cat is merely a cat in these poems or a symbol of something greater.  In many ways, this is a collection that should be dipped into from time to time when someone is in need of a good laugh or a bit of just fun, but reading it cover-to-cover it can become a bit tedious.  The cover should establish the mood for any reader who picks it up.  It’s busy, full of life and action, and complete chaos.  Carnival by Jason Bredle is just that, a carnival of busyness and bedlam.

About the Poet:

Jason Bredle is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Carnival, from University of Akron Press. He lives in Chicago.

This is the 28th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 87th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.