“What the hell were we talking about?
Oh right. Let me sum it up.
Shark – Not dead.
Out of the water – Move away.
Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough…
trim your nose hairs.”
Poetry, poetry, poetry. I had a creative writing professor, way back in the long, long ago, who told me that nearly everyone writes poetry, but almost nobody reads it. Who can blame them? It’s a stuffy, outdated art form with way too many rigid rules performed largely by obnoxious, melodramatic fools. This is the point where I tend to tell people, in the parlance of the great modern-retro Syfy series, to frack themselves into oblivion. Preferably with a large fist in their nether eye. Forget most of what you studied in class and don’t you dare even consider that douche bag in the turtleneck sweater who keeps trying to impress your girlfriend with his dark pondering upon the midnight cityscape. There is good poetry out there. Poetry that does not have its head inserted rectally, yet still possessing the intellect and heart to provide continued interest.
Case in point: Matt Betts.
First off, any fool can write poems about the wind through the trees or the sexual implications of a flea, but he writes about cool stuff like Godzilla and werewolves and robots and super villains and Elvis. That’s right: Elvis. Suck on that, Angelou. Also, he writes in a very clear, straightforward and conversational style, without glaring rhyme or metre schemes. In other words, you can actually understand what the heck it is that he is saying to you. And, he’s funny. Seriously, maliciously, little-drops-of-piddle-in-the-underpants funny.
Take a look at the quote at the top, then put it into the context of a warning about beach life in Amity Island. Sure, the sense of humor is at times a bit Python-esque but the absurdity works gorgeously well. I think the reason for that is that he is taking supremely absurd situations (shark vendettas, Godzilla’s girlfriend accusing him of cheating on her, the shopping needs of werewolves, etc.) and shining a very practical and utilitarian light on them. This is a guy who looks at floating cars and imagines them on blocks (tied down to prevent them from floating away) in redneck lawns or sees a superhero’s effect on the lives of everyday cops. Needless to say, his viewpoint is a tad skewed.
The strange part shows up in the amount of heart on view. Matt’s humor comes from a bit of a bitter place and, like all of the best comic minds, there is an element of the pathetic to every belly laugh. He seems to understand that we laugh because we have to, because our only other option is to collapse into a ball of quivering jelly as we await the end of everything we love. This understanding brings the humanity gleaming from the cracks in his wit.
Example: “Poem for a Bar I May Have Frequented in My Youth On the Occasion of it Burning Down” is overflowing with of-hand sci-fi references and silly considerations of alien hotness across the stumbling half-memories of what seems to be a half-wit fool. At the same time, it is a solemn bit of reverie for the joys of a misspent youth, the kind of thing we only bother to think pleasantly about when we see the effects of time.
Be warned, there are a couple all out attacks on the tear ducts. “We Killed the Morale Officer on Sweetest Day” is a look at what very well may be the end of all human civilization. It’s wry, wistful and kinda made me want to look for a razor to carve hope into my arms. Same with “Concerning the Fire in Lab 53…”, about the suicide wishes of a misbegotten, monstrous creation as it lopes off to its fate. Not remotely happy, but damn beautiful.
Matt’s a guy to keep an eye on, especially for those of you who say you don’t like poetry. He may just change your mind. Even if he doesn’t, the accompanying artwork by Rebecca Whitaker is certainly worth a look. Similarly simple, almost comicstripy, but striking and possessed of its own absurdist beauty.
Available from MattBetts.com