Book Review: Underdays by Martin Ott

by Martin Ott

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

“I so admire the spirit in Underdays that clearly wants to—and does!—make beautiful poems, both in the midst of trouble and OUT of it. Turn the pages, and be met by beguiling surprises: madlibs, the heartfelt voice, jazzy soliloquies as bullets fly, lyric reveries in landscapes of dream. These poems feel pressured into being by all that’s fleeting, and reading them, we may feel that toughest of dichotomies dig deeper in: ‘the dangers of living, of forgetting.’ ” — Nance Van Winckel, author of Pacific Walkers

“In Martin Ott’s new book of poems, Underdays, there’s nature, children, desire, war, and Los Angeles, but everything is shrouded with the speaker’s experiences as an interrogator in the military—an institution that leaves nothing untouched, even Ott’s haunting and dark poetry. But more importantly, Ott’s poetry is sonically beautiful and written with such a skilled hand—a hand that was meant to write the poetry of a gifted and haunted soul.” — Victoria Chang, author of The Boss

TSR My Review

Underdays is a terrifyingly beautiful collection of poems.  Some of the poems will reach inside the deepest part of you and rip you apart while others will put you back together and mend you.  There seem to be so many layers to Martin Ott’s poetry, that I know for sure this is a book that I will revisit often.  It is just one of those books that beg to be reread in order to peel back all those layers.  The author is extremely talented with words and I was completely mesmerized by the beauty of the language, even when the themes could be so dark and haunting.  Every single poem seems to have a higher purpose and as the reader, I felt that it was my job, my duty to decipher and reconcile its meaning.  A poem about not carrying an umbrella is not really a poem about umbrellas, so what is it about? The dialogue in italics within the poems is brilliant and it guides you into the depths of the poem so that you can find your own answers.

From High Above The Airport:

“You’re a decorated pilot
descending from a dogfight.
No, a child with paper wings 
plunging spellbound toward earth.

I highly recommend this book of poems. If you have any interest in poetry, you will not be disappointed by Martin Ott’s collection.  Underdays is poignant, yet absolutely stunning.  I leave you with my favorite quote from the book: “We will conquer mountains of air on words that form translucent ladders to the constellations of our adventures.”

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

5 out of 5 stars

5 stars