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Sharks vs. Selfies

Sharks vs. Selfies

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By Martin Ott

Poetry - Paperback

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Sharks vs. Selfies is a sizzling collection of fables unwinding in poetic form. “In this impressive collection of prose poems, Martin Ott strikes a range of tones—grim wit, lyric truth-telling, conversational dailiness, and political/environmental grief,” notes Diane Seuss, Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry.

After several speculative novels, Novo and Sandeen prize winning writer Martin Ott returns to poetry for his fifth full length collection, building on the momentum from his hard hitting Fake News Poems, that tills a similar, surreal landscape of the absurdity of modern life. 

 

Martin Ott is a former US Army interrogator and the author of eleven books of fiction and poetry, two of which won the De Novo and Sandeen prizes. His most recent book, Shadow Dance, was published by Regal House. His work has appeared in over three hundred journals and magazines and has been heavily anthologized. 

 

Sharks vs. Selfies is a dizzying collection of prose poems that capture in their frames the teetering life of 21 st century America, where “motion is a religion” and dreams “swipe left and right,” where the flag “waves in bad weather” somewhere above “a blood soup of empire.” There’s certainly a sense of frustration and foreboding throughout the book, but the backdrop is Los Angeles, with its Hollywood silliness and absurdity, and when Ott addresses divorce and childhood the poems are deeply moving. By the end, Ott has deftly scrambled and complicated the political, the personal, and the pop cultural, offering an honest and clear-eyed assessment of who we are in this strange and chaotic time. - Wayne Miller, author of Post-, Milkweed Editions

In this impressive collection of prose poems, Martin Ott strikes a range of tones—grim wit, lyric truth-telling, conversational dailiness, and political/environmental grief. “Today, the latest wildfire rages into form, the latest election lost in subterfuge and cages, the latest mass shooting at the borderline of fate,” he writes, demarcating the book’s territory, even as the speaker shepherds us into the intimate landscapes and holy details of his lived experience. Ott also reinvigorates archetypes via pop cultural references, from Sasquatch to Wendy’s to old school donuts to the “new world myopia” of the selfie. The prose poem form holds us firm as we journey with the speaker through heartbreak, environmental disaster, and war, and the speaker himself, the solidity of his vision and his capacity for empathy and delight, becomes a chronicler on whom we can rely and who we befriend. - Diane Seuss, author of Four-Legged Girl and Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

Sharks vs. Selfies is an endlessly surprising book of prose poems—they use parts of surrealism and pop culture to create mini fables that might guide readers through the world's chaos. With carefully controlled psychic distance, the images leave us slightly on our back foot, but wanting more. - Sean Singer, author of Discography, Yale University Press

Sharks vs. Selfies, by Martin Ott is a compelling celebration of the audacity, depth, and social critique that the prose poem, our original genre-busting heroine, can best do. In a world filled with death by shark and death by selfie, the heart of our own humanity pleads with us, and the cheeky and sassy mode of the prose poem, hated by our literary grumpy aunties and uncles, only adds to the renaissance of the fine form and limber gymnastics of the prose poem. In this, his tenth book, Ott’s poems are the brainchild of an experienced and ethical interrogator/philosopher. Ott’s poems are fluid in the language of truth or dare. A purple monster, various angelic beings, a colonel who is really a wolf, glaciers retreating like lovers, love letters never sent, hometown’s made of closed factories and dust, men falling off cliffs playing Pokémon Go, the American Id, the Fall of Sky Mall, Isaac Asimov’s third law, robots, and automatons, all of these and more populate the world that Ott has invited us to inhabit with him, helping us to  see the strange phenomena of modernity through a new lens. I, for one, am happy to co-pilot this journey that Ott’s speaker takes us on through today’s strange worlds where our dreams “swipe us left and right,” where we are all on “the brink of love.” Sharks vs. Selfies explores the genre of being human in a capitalist society unhinged by teetering empire, vast violence, and virulent vanities. Go ahead, make my day: Read this book! - Elizabeth A.I. Powell, author of Atomizer and Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter

In his new book Sharks vs. Selfies, Martin Ott is the ringmaster of the forms of declaration. But unlike the creatures under the big top, these sentences drive the show. They cause us not merely to marvel at the panoply of contemporary consumer society but to mourn the loss of family and love. “The legends passed down are burdens indeed,” writes Ott, but here with have a poet at his best amidst the mad bustle of past and present. The show will leave you astonished. - Kyle McCord, author of Sympathy from the Devil, Goldwake Press


Martin Ott’s poems sizzle. No thought is final, all things shift, are added to, accrue. Like experience, Sharks vs. Selfies builds bit by bit, and you never know where the next poem, the book will go. It’s a propulsion of continual revisions, honing ideas by repetition with variation, rounding the thought you can’t quite put a finger on, but is real and felt. In one way, it’s common, daily, this thinking, in another, it’s fantastic, deeply meaningful. It’s both. It’s important, too, to consider these thoughts, how thinking happens, how what appears turns common, and back again, so that all bets are off, and no one can get too comfortable. It’s a wild ride that I’m glad to be on. - John Gallaher, author of Brand New Spaceship, BOA Editions

Ott takes us on through today’s strange worlds where our dreams ‘swipe us left and right,’ where we are all on ‘the brink of love.’ Sharks vs. Selfies explores the genre of being human in a capitalist society unhinged by teetering empire, vast violence, and virulent vanities. Go ahead, make my day: Read this book -  Elizabeth A.I. Powell, author of Atomizer and Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter.

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