Those Godawful Streets of Man


A book of raw wire in the city

"This is an edgy, raw, harsh, gritty book about the contemporary cityscape -- its block buildings; its loose, naked, spitting live wires; its plugged-in populace. A place where Borderliners, leeches, zombies, and drains fight it out over a man and a woman locked in a death grip."

"Bett's poetry are offerings: they expose themselves like nude paintings, providing only the essentials and inviting the reader to extrapolate interpretation based on the subjective reading. This is authentic minimalist poetry. The words are so modestly beautiful in their arrangement upon the white page while showing an emotional intelligence within the micro-text.

--REM magazine, New Zealand

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More Reviews

"I love what Stephen Bett is doing with language in his latest opus....

"Bett's his own man here. He's absorbed the lessons of the Objectivists, Beats, Black Mountain, New York and San Francisco schools; the Canadian Tish poets' experiments with vernacular phonological phrasing in open form; the studious avoidance of the "burnished urn" Modernist reliance on myth, metaphor, and intellectual conceits, dense allusion, tight boxed containers.

"Not that Bett's poems aren't marvelously allusive; the bric-à-brac of pop culture is all here: movies, cell phones, the Web, selfies, Tweets and all manner of squawks from the Interface. But there is nothing overtly confessional and the stitches and strophes are as comfortable and companionable as a Tetley Tea bag or new silk pyramid of the latest craft tea. The allusions are to pop culture events: post-modern texts, not obscure texts....

"This is minimalism for readers who like their poems fat: rich, but sans impasto or ornament. A book of raw wire in the city: edgy, tense, sharp, angular, dangerous--in the electrified, computerized grids of cityscape we inhabit, and in the boxes we place each other in and peer out from... as we attempt to touch through wires and wireless interfaces, en face, live and in person in an age of celebrity cast-off culture and relationships.

"At the heart of the book and appearing late in the accumulating narrative--the overall alienation we 21st-century zombie citizens feel facing globalization and its feral children--is the story of a dissolving relationship, the man too earnest and accepting; the woman raging and fading into madness. But nothing is cloying or mawkish or sentimental, or even confessional; instead we shift easily from a sort of Special Victims Unit episode of macro family skeleton news to deeply personal, eviscerating sorrow, with grace and elan.

"Musically, rhythmically, the poet is adroit, fluid, as graceful as Sonny Rollins on a good day. You can feel those tight turns, drops, and ascents as you might on a carnival ride; Bett doesn't waste a word, but pastes you to the back of your vernacular cage. You are in for the ride.

"Line for line, strophe for strophe, image for image, Stephen Bett's latest delivers the news, along with the tart taste of jazz and blues."

-Richard Stevenson, Pacific Rim Review of Books

"In Stephen Bett's book Those Godawful Streets of Man: A Book Of Raw Wire In The City, I found a look at a city that is just as the book describes: raw. It is an unapologetic, unflinching look into the back alleys and poorly lit areas of the human condition. It gives the reader a look into an urban anger and despair that is as haunting as it is unwavering. It is the kind of beauty found in ruins of past civilizations.

"The two major themes that run through the book are the notes of despondency and disconnect that seem to pop up somewhere in almost every poem.

"From the very beginning, Bett presents this sense of an unfiltered speaker that will walk you through this book pointing at the tragedies of a place with language that does not lose itself in self-deprecation or sentimentality....

"This book does not slow down. The further you go into it, the more momentum it carries and the faster that momentum seems to be taking you. As this momentum picks up, the poems begin to change on the page. More and more lines begin to make up the poems, while those lines themselves become shorter. All the while, Bett is relentless in his tone, and finds ways to achieve his poems with fewer words as it progresses....

"This is not a "feel-good" kind of reading. That kind of emotional pleasure, I think, you would be hard-pressed to find in its pages. But, if you are willing to follow Bett into this urban world of frayed wire, dark alleys, and empty boxes, you will find a voice that is braver than many, and a view of the world that is beautiful in its starkness. Those Godawful Streets Of Man: A Book Of Raw Wire In The City gives you exactly what the name suggests. You only have to take a breath and dive into a world perhaps more familiar than we would like to admit."

--Front Porch Journal (Texas)

"Stephen Bett is damned sure that none of us is going to get out of this city unscathed. Those Godawful Streets of Man: A Book Of Raw Wire In The City is a little light when it comes to optimism; this book is a sneer from a mouth full of broken teeth...

"In Bett's city someone just played the joker against any chance of a winning hand. People smear themselves like bloodstains all over their attempts to find love. Those that do find love discover just how flawed love can be. Those Godawful Streets of Man is an illustrated fall from grace, one gut punch at a time...

"Stephen Bett's city is under siege, love is a doomed lost cause and you can't trust anyone in Those Godawful Streets of Man. Love and tenderness are abandoned as life cracks a hard whip over every sucker's back in these bruised beauties. There are no happy endings. Bett is betting that readers will recognize his remorseless city as a place they've spent time. We have all had our broken hearts turn black and brooding, and Bett is certain we'll remember. He gives voice to some angry sorrow. And these poems sting smart:

"Those Godawful Streets of Man (23rd St.)"

Where is the godawful
suicide gene when you
need it, tons of other
people have enough
to go around, why
not do the black
market thing, this
is a godawful
black market
day, there's
a sale on at
every corner
buy what you
need & get
it over with

Look at the line-
up over there
short ones tall
ones & you
take an odd
size, poor
sap, here
lemme lend
you some money
fix yr-self up
& drop yr-
self off

I can't I'm
waiting for
someone who
may or may
not come
(any week now
any month)
can I just take
enough each day,
take the edge

Those Godawful Streets of Man is not for the weak of heart. These poems are the white-knuckle, white-hot anger of pure emotional betrayal, the picked scabs of love. Dark and intriguing poetry. But it won't make you happy. Stephen Bett is damned sure that none of us is going to get out of this city unscathed.

This is the second time Today's Book of Poetry has gone into Stephen Bett world. No holding back in Bett world. These beauties sing.

Today's Book of Poetry has looked at Stephen Bett before. Back in April of this year we blogged about Bett's The Gross & Fine Geography: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry). You can see that blog here:

Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry

"Those Godawful Streets of Man: Wow! Blown away. "17th Street" and "32nd Street" took my breath away.... Very dark stuff. Dystopia has come home to roost in Stephen Bett's poetry!"

~ Lou Boxer (

"The geography of Godawful, its rawness and vivacity."

~ Coach House

"This is certainly a gritty collection of poems, all of which are compelling and thought-provoking."

~ Stephanie Shefler

"The craft in [Bett's] work is evident and this book has a bright future."

~ Micheline Maylor

"Such an uncompromising vision in these poems, written with punch and real grit."

~ Barry Dempster