Track This


A Book of Relationship

In Bett's new book, Track This, we see a surprising, but highly engaging shift in sensibility. Track This is a risk-taking, stunningly beautiful book of poems that "tracks" an evolving love relationship. The poet employs his considerable technical skill to steer well free of clich├ęd, lyric sentiment by making use of Louis Zukofsky's still relevant, but rarely achieved dictum "upper register: music." The language of these minimalist, short line poems truly "sings" as the poems move and turn on the page. This is a poet who inherits the mantel from Creeley, Dorn, et al, but whose voice and ear for language are entirely his own. An utterly unique and gifted voice, intelligently hip, making postmodern language reach toward music.

See a sample here.

Ordering Track This


"The poems in the first and shorter section of the book, Untracked, amass themselves as debris of observing: we have the witty "Gee," where a divorce lawyer and a g-string make an appearance, as well as a handful of other funny poems. Then we move onto the meat of the volume, the section called Tracked, which accounts for about 88% of the book. This section literally tracks the birth and growth of a romantic relationship, which at first seems like fodder too common for poems. But about halfway through, as the speaker of the poems begins dealing with the tension in the relationship, the poems grow more complex and engender the struggle of loving and the struggle of poetry. Which I can get behind."

--Switchback Magazine.

"Stephen Bett's works are characteristically sharp and superficially simple. Yet they mask a sincere emotion which, in subsequent readings, grows deeper with intensity. Brevity yields nuances, words become packed with unsaid dialogue, lines are meant to be read 'in between.'

"That being said, the layers within the poems are wonderfully subtle...

"Minimalist poetry makes its own rules to convey meaning but any successful poem should read beyond the printed word. My personal obsession with semiotics, cultural signs and their processes which adapt and form meaning, made me fall in, like, love at first sight with Stephen's work. I spent hours pouring over his book Track This trying to understand how he melded particular nuances to words that normally yielded none.

"At the time, I assumed the faint linear structure of the collection imposed a vague, connect-the-dots memory where subsequent poems rode on the metaphors that preceeded them. Although several months on, I'm not so sure that line of reasoning is correct. The one thing I do understand of his work is this gut feeling: the hallmark of authentic poetry is the ability to inspire a determined thought process and - 'I wish I could I write like that!'"

--Tuesday Poem.

"Track This: A Book of Relationship by Stephen Bett is an emotionally generous collection of stylistically spare poetry reminiscent of the work of Ezra Pound and e.e. cummings. As the title of the book suggests, the poetry collected therein tracks the evolution of a single relationship, but it does so in ways that will likely challenge the casual reader to rethink conventional notions of language.

"(Parenthetical statements, for example, tend to open without closing. A commentary on the nature of relationships, perhaps? On the contingency of the ties that bind? We enter into these deals with other human beings without knowing how or when or whether they will end. We hope, for the most part, that they will go on forever, but...

"(Ah, yes, he uses ellipses, on occasion, too. And, to be sure, some of his parenthetical expressions both open and close.)

"All of this is to say that by toying with the conventions of language, Bett draws attention to the ways in which language and relationships are given to the same types of uncertainty. More to the point, his poetry suggests that just as the uncertainty of language -- the inability of words to capture the ineffable, the sublime, the exact essence of a moment or feeling or heartbeat -- does not stop us from attempting to communicate, the unlikeliness of ever connecting one's soul to that of another will not stop us from trying. We love because we want to connect, the poems in this volume suggest, and it's in the attempt, in the grappling we do in the dark among the interstices of communication and amidst the firing of neurons, that we find the agony and ecstasy of all that makes life worth living."

--Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews.

"How deceptively simple they are. There is a suppleness of line that I find particularly engaging and a sense of the spoken voice that is much stronger than usual. I really like the form of "address". It's, of course, perfect for what you are trying to achieve. I can sense the struggle of trying to be sincere about something that is important to someone who is important to you. It is a directness that necessitates utter honesty. Well done my friend."

--Ken Cathers

"I like these poems. Will be a great book of beauties. Very sweet and clear!"

--Michael Rothenberg

"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.

"Poetic minimalism is notoriously difficult to master, especially on a topic as complex as human relationships. Yet Track This manipulates the sparse format so aptly that the outcome is a poignant expression of the tensions that exist between two people. At times, the collection demonstrates the understated gentleness of the English language with a human voice that makes the poetry so accessible to the layperson (while it beckons multiple readings from the widely read). To satisfy both types of readers is an incredible accomplishment."

--REM magazine in New Zealand.

"Track This hits the spot... another good value read from BlazeVOX."

-James McLaughlin, Stride Magazine, England.