Carlos Lerma is a poet, and he knows it. He is also an artist and letter writer, and you, lucky reader, get to experience Carlos in all of his imperfect perfection.
The collection has numerous standouts; eventually I had to stop highlighting favorites. “Dependent,” a poem about self-esteem and loneliness in a social media society, and “Dear Cafeteria Ladies,” a heartfelt letter/poem of thanks and appreciation, are not to be missed. Another letter/poem, “Dear Guy That Compared His Body to Mine,” paints an effective, concise word picture. I enjoy the letter format; its form does not contain the sometimes slightly forced rhymes that appear in a few of the traditional poems.
About that rhyming: Yes, it’s sometimes awkward. However, Mr. Lerma often abandons his rhyming patterns for the last stanza or so of his poems, and this is very effective at delivering his message. He’s stopping the music to speak his last thoughts – and everybody knows that’s when you listen.
The poet often writes about his desire to have friends, to be invited – included. I think anyone who has been a child – and especially anyone who has loved a child – can feel the pain and want in these poems.
Underdog Days ends like my midwestern grandmother’s visits; she would say her first goodbye, put her coat on, talk for fifteen minutes, say her second goodbye, open the door, stand in the doorway and talk some more, say her third goodbye, and leave. Readers, just keep scrolling and reading; you’ll eventually be waving goodbye as the poet drives away – and he’ll be waving back. (Don’t skip the Acknowledgments; they are a poem all their own.)
While I wouldn’t say that every single poem is worth five stars, the overall synergy between poem and visual art, and the sweetness of the poems in letter format, especially, justify my five-star rating for the overall collection.
And Carlos – your punctuation is perfect in my eyes. Wish granted. (Everyone else – read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
Thank you to the author and Reedsy Discovery for an ARC which I used to write my honest review.