Review

I am not a huge fan of poetry. I’m too simple. I want the darn things to rhyme. But I have, admittedly, enjoyed some poetry that didn’t, including works by e.e.cummings. Nonetheless, being asked to give my opinion on a book of poetry was a bit of a challenge. First, I had to actually read all those poems! God! I haven’t really had to think since grade school!

But gradually, reading this particular poetry, I remembered a long forgotten college lesson: poetry makes you think. Good poetry gets inside your head and heart. Poetry is more than just words in lines. Poetry is the essence of feelings and ideas, arranged where they can be most powerful; most influential, most provoking. And Underwater Fistfight by author Matt Betts fits that bill to a “t”. Most every reader will find a bite or two in this feast in which to sink their teeth.

I found this collection of poems, some of which appeared more prose than poetry, made me laugh, scratch my head and wonder.

Author Matt Betts resides in intellectually rarer air than yours truly. And speaking of “rarer air”, I would have to say that he is considerably further “out there” than most of the folks with whom I soar. Therefore, I presumed that Betts wouldn’t be so funny. He seems to have a more-than-what-would-be-considered-normal obsession with monsters, death and violence. So, I anticipated all zombies and Nosferatu. Underwater Fistfight was far from predictable horror fodder. I appreciated the humor in Mr. Betts’ imagery. For example, his “dream” passages from the piece entitled “The Coming Extinction”, feature his mother, who loves Elvis. The author, watching Jurassic Park, begins to ruminate:

“I think if they can clone dinosaurs and bring them back to life, they could probably bring back ELVIS. In fact, I don’t see what would prevent them from bringing back herds of ELVISES to roam free in the wild, tearing across the plains and spitting poison on unsuspecting townsfolk.”

This is not exactly the gore and fright I was expecting, in fact it caused me to guffaw. So Poetry 1, Me 0.

I found myself reading some of the pieces over, several times, trying to get into Betts’ head and extract some of the higher conscience lessons he disseminates in his work. And there I was, thinking again. I was intrigued by his poem, “For a Swim.” He begins the piece as a reminiscence of boyhood swims at the beach. Suddenly, he flips the situation and brings the speaker back to a fearful reality:

“Of course, up on the boat, the gray abomination on the deck, that monstrosity that we had the misfortune of saving, assures me that I am not at home. We should have left him in the muck and mire. Should’ve let the vultures pick his helpless bones clean. But he is with us now. Let the vultures pick his helpless bones clean. But he is with us now. A talisman and an albatross. We must continue. There is no safety here in this water, this foreign heat. We are not all classmates out to cool off. There are monsters here. And horrors never imagined lurking just below the surface.”

Okay, you have my attention. What?!? What did he bring onto the boat? But, in the next breath, he keeps your imagination humming by refusing to unmask his horrors. He simply finishes with the speaker turning his back on his fear:

” But the azure river all around and a chance for a swim can’t be ignored.”

Suddenly, the reader is left on his own to conjure the monsters for himself; create his own terror in the deep and imagine the innocent lads frolicking, just above.

While I was drawn to much of his work, some of Betts’ poems did not appeal to me. In some instances, I was forced to backtrack, and study a bit, sometimes more, and other readers will too. But, poetry affects everyone differently. What affects me hard may not affect you. However, you will definitely find some piece(s) in Underwater Fistfight that will touch your emotions, give you pause or make you smile wickedly. And, you will have no choice but to think.

 

Author Matt Betts

Ohio native Matt Betts grew up on a steady diet of giant monsters, comic books, robots and horror novels. Matt’s speculative poetry and short fiction appear in numerous anthologies and journals. He is the author of the poetry collection See No Evil, Say No Evil, the steampunk novel Odd Men Out and the urban fantasy Indelible Ink. Matt lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and two sons.

Read more at www.mattbetts.com.

Underwater Fistfight and Betts’ other books are available on Amazon.com, BN.com and Rawdogscreaming.com.



About the Author

P.S. Luhn
P.S. Luhn
Having gotten into the theater game late (Age 22), P.S Luhn soon decided this hobby would become an obsession. Over a period of 42 years, he has appeared in over 60 productions, directed eight, and worked on numerous others in a production or technical capacity. Some of Luhn's roles include Starbuck in The Rainmaker, Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park, and Bri in A day in the Death of Joe Egg. Luhn began to write plays in 1996 in order to engineer an on-stage reunion with two friends. His play, The Buddha Crumbles, was produced as a part of an emerging new-play Festival, PlayFair, in 1998, with those friends playing the leads. In all, the playwright saw five of his scripts produced at PlayFair. In 2006, Luhn's play, Walter Men was produced by Curtain Players of Columbus as a part of their new play festival. Luhn has completed 22 plays of varying lengths, of which 9 have been staged. Luhn is employed by Superior Credit Union, of Lima. He resides in Gomer, Ohio, with his wife, and a very large cat.