Underdays by Martin Ott
University of Notre Dame Press (ebook), 2015
72 Pages

Poet Website

Amazon (UK)


I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review.

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.

The Interrogator In Retirement

He’s waiting for the reverse
metamorphosis, for the extra
feels to fold or fall off,
to wake one morning as a man.

Underdays is an excellent collection of poems. I enjoyed every one. Ott is talented and it’s easy to see why he’s an award winning poet. I could read this collection over and over and take away something different every time. Ott is a poet who personifies everything about a good poet – someone who knows the exact words to use and the perfect order to use them in. There’s just enough darkness in the poems in this collection. I found something different and surprising in every poem. My personal favourites are Survivor’s Manual of Love and War, The Naked Boy on the Famous Album Cover, Why I Don’t Set the Clock on My Car, Houses of Straw and The Subject of My First Childhood Poem Revisited. I’ve never read Ott before but definitely would again. I’d highly recommend this startling collection.

Poems Included:

  • The Integrator in Retirement
  • Mystery Spot
  • Survivor’s Manual of Love and War
  • Cloud Writing
  • The City of Tomorrow
  • The Naked Boy on the Famous Album Cover
  • Battlefield Typewriter
  • Love Advice from a Twenty-Sided Die
  • View from Within
  • Why I Don’t Set the Clock on My Car
  • Craters of the Moon
  • Midlife Man
  • Mad Libs for Interrogators
  • The Old Zoo
  • Caves of Los Angeles
  • High Above the Airport
  • Soldiers in the Dark
  • Ring Finder
  • Refrain
  • Why I Don’t Carry an Umbrella
  • Houses of Straw
  • Mad Libs for Lovers
  • The Intention of Knees
  • The Lost Film of Kim Jong II
  • The Book of Secret Places
  • The Last to Flee the Wildfire
  • Ink Quake
  • Angel Blue
  • Man Lost on a Mountain Trail
  • Audition
  • What Is Left
  • Collecting People
  • Blanket Party
  • Lot’s Lips
  • Movie Star Girlfriend
  • Mad Libs for Politicians
  • Diplomacy
  • Ghosts of Hollywood
  • War Wounds
  • The Subject of My First Childhood Poem Revisited
  • Upon Examining the Newly Hatched Chick That Flew around the World
  • 113 Degrees of Separation
  • Steps
  • Bookmarks
  • Fruits of Labours
  • Goodnight




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