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Review: Underdays by Martin Ott

About the Book

We encounter many voices in life: from friends and family, from media, from co-workers, from other artists. In a highly connected global world, where people and entities are electronically enmeshed, we filter these voices constantly to get to what we determine to be the truth. Taking inspiration from pop culture, politics, art, and social media, Martin Ott mines daily existence as the inspiration and driving force behind Underdays.

Underdays is a dialogue of opposing forces: life/death, love/war, the personal/the political. Ott combines global concerns with personal ones, in conversation between poems or within them, to find meaning in his search for what drives us to love and hate each other. Within many of the poems, a second voice, expressed in italic, hints at an opposing force “under” the surface, or multiple voices in conversation with his older and younger selves—his Underdays—to chart a path forward. What results is a poetic heteroglossia expressing the richness of a complex world.  

Review

Underdays, by Martin Ott, is a collection of poetry that dives deep into the depths of human experience. Ott masterfully spins poem after poem that speaks to shame, of doubt, of beauty. This book is both accessible and inspired; if you're not really already into poetry, this collection would be an excellent choice if you're interesting in exposing yourself to the metaphors and charged language that comes along with it.

The fact that Ott was once an interrogator in the military gives weight to the fact that these poems are revealing. Very revealing. The poem Refrain speaks of past dealings, of doors closed and open, and of acts that do not sit well with the subject. It's the kind of poem that speaks to the idea that everyone holds secrets never shared, feelings never expressed, acts tried to forget. Although it implies a job in some covert capacity, it's easily related to.

Another poem, Soldiers in the Dark, is especially powerful. It speaks of the closeness between soldiers in the military, joking skillfully about kissing during CPR. It then quickly paints a stark picture of two soldiers in a horrible situation, both fearful of what's to come, but showing the intimate nature of this shared fear. This poem, in particular, is short and sweet, able to convey the heaviness and fear in mere lines.

Ott's vibrant and powerful diction comes through in nearly all of his poems, giving readers an informed look into pain, fear, and the joy that comes along after suffering. His stanzas drip with inspiration and come across as genuine and not at all conflated or hokey. It is an excellent collection of poetry, one that even a poetry amateur would be able to enjoy fully.

Reviewed by Amy Richardson

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