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Undertow Overtures Paperback – April 1, 2014
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Mr. Crist writes from the heart. The notion of 'all good families are alike, but all bad families are bad each in their own way' comes to mind reading his poetry. He did not have a happy childhood, ya know, divorced parents, mean Grandpa, boyfriends of his Mom, etc. This does not mean he became a social outcast, just another person with issues in his past he deals with as best he can. 'Pine Box Derby' is a good example of how he saw the world growing up. He was the only boy scout with a single Mom, whose Dad did not build or even help putting the car together (he was not there), and he was eliminated in the first round. There was no applause or congratulations for what he did, mostly just a memory of leaving the show having not done anything worthwhile. It is sad, but he deals with it as best he can, as any us would. The point being that a lot of us have these problems. Very few families are 'good families' as Tolstoy would have it - divorce, alcoholism, abuse of all sorts, and the list goes on. His writing just gives him a means of communicating to us and himself what he feels and how he sees life, almost like if he was in psychiatric care. It does not make his life any better, but at least it is not stuck rumbling around inside his head like a broken record.
Another part of this book is the reality of being human. As he grew up, things happened and he learned and adjusted and became what he is. Being human means there imperfections in our relationships and in us. Someone always gets hurt by our neglect or impertinent remark or not perceiving how throwing that ball that way will hit them or something. Hopefully we learn as we grow up, and beyond, to adjust and minimize these problems, but we are who we are and try as we might there are some things that we will not be able to correct or change. If you are clumsy, it hard to not see how to not be; if you are alcoholic, it is hard to stop; if you can not figure out how to be friendly, it is hard to learn. Mr. Crist writes of these simple problems that he can see in himself honestly. It does not help him become a more perfect person, or change the challenges he knows he has, but it does bring it out so he can talk with others more honestly.
As one lady told him after reading the book, “I feel like I know you.” I do not know about how he took that comment, but I would have been pleased as punch that she felt that way. It meant that he did communicate well.
The 102 poems in this 156 page book stress visceral cinematic images and sounds with an often ironic, somewhat dark sardonic sharp sense of humor. Nearly all the poems have a strong autobiographical voice revealing various sides of the poet. Some poems are rants and complaints (but none whine) about relatable issues or experiences.
It’s easy to read all the poems in Undertow Overtures and know what they are about. Several poems when read a second or third time will reveal additional sub-texts and for those that don’t, most are so entertaining you’ll look forward to reading them again in the future.
The last four lines of the two page Kingdome poem sneak up on you. . . and if you like how the poem seamlessly moves from being about a memorable event (the demolition of the Seattle Kingdome) into a deeper, more meaningful reflection you’ll find at least a dozen poems that work in similar ways in this collection.
'I nipped some scotch and squeezed my woman close beside me
Because we wouldn’t be around to see our own deaths, or even
One another’s and even if we did, it could never equal what we
Had just seen—this huge forever thing, no longer there.'
Highly recommended. Worth owning. 4.5 stars bumped up.