Praise for The Better Monsters
“A complex work of poetry…a glimpse into what a foreigner’s arrival to the United States looks like…a productive contribution to a conversation about inclusion and tolerance…gripping…takes readers by surprise with tragically poetic stanzas…an exciting poetic work that lives up to its emotional and linguistic potential.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Pointed and unsparing, The Better Monsters throws one central question at the reader: In a world filled with evil, in which we all have the capacity to act in monstrous ways, is good merely a relative term? Can we only hope to be better? Dutt’s use of shifting perspectives and multiple narratives ensures that we are all complicit in the spiritual degradation that follows violence. With fierce precision, Dutt shows us our worst selves, yet also offers signs of hope: ‘if the blind can feel a smile / the weight of love in their fingers / then we should feel the tilt of the earth / fold into its axis / and know / it is not seeing / to arrive.’ ”
– Jury Comment – Trillium Book Award For Poetry (English Language) Finalist, 2018
“Canadian poetry often receives a reputation for being too backward looking, too insular. Certainly not in The Better Monsters, where Puneet Dutt presents a language as knowingly awash in the intrigue of international relations as it is in the immediacy of personal experience. Utilizing a sparse form, Dutt’s words breathe throughout the entirety of the page, allowing the odd, ugly, and beautiful contradictions of modern life to resonate. Whether examining war, racism, or the complexity of place, The Better Monsters is a book that sits squarely in the contemporary world, where the differences across the street can often eclipse the differences between borders.”
– Jury Comment –2018 Raymond Souster Award Shortlist
“A narrative of diaspora, of alienation from the homeland by violence…convey(s) meaning so succinctly…a feat of technical prowess…[a] form of contrarian aesthetic resistance…Dutt’s language works to contradict the imperialistic, acquisitional logic of both systems and is thereby able to lay bare their ugliness…a significant coup…a biting critique of the nihilism of state-led campaigns of violence. In Dutt’s hands, poetry is a kind of political monster that subverts the successes and excesses of violence.”
– Jade Wallace – bywords.ca, review of The Better Monsters
“Acquired on recommendation…What. A. KNOCKOUT! These exquisitely crafted poems with their short, sharp lines have liquefied my mind and crystallized my heart. I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite – indeed, I don’t think I’ve left a single page unmarked! Such a remarkable debut, and one I’m thrilled to have read. I wish I had more time to spend with this review! But here’s hoping I can get in a solid re-read some time in the near future. #Books #RasiqrasReviews #PuneetDutt #TheBetterMonsters #MansfieldPress #MeetThePresses #Toronto #RasiqraRecommends #BestOf2018 #BookLove #Shelfie #PersonalLibrary #Research #AmWriting #FuckYeah #LuvYourLife #Inspiration #LiteraryLatergram #ShelfLife #NovemberReads #BookHaul #Queue #WomenWriters #WOCWriters #Backlog #WowBOBWow
– @rasiqra_revulva – #RasiqrasReviews, Instagram, review of The Better Monsters (November read 12/12, and 141/153 in my #ReadIn2018 queue: @puneetdutt – The Better Monsters.)
“Dutt blesses us with wings that take us to soaring heights from where we see the world as the gods do from heaven. The poems in The Better Monsters teach us how humanity is its own greatest threat but also its greatest salvation. Dutt’s world is one of greater and lesser evils, where the only virtue is the beauty that her language provides. Yes, perhaps her poetry is our best chance to escape our everyday monsters, our monsters within.” Darrel Alejandro Holnes – Pushcart Prize nominated poet, Arts Faculty, New York University, United Nations Consultant
“In this gripping first collection, Dutt evokes innocence within and despite the cruel enigma of inevitable arrival. She masterfully connotes this ironic centre – the empty solace of truth telling: ‘so fast they left us/to get there.’ ” Hal Niedzviecki – author of The Archaeologists, founder and publisher of Broken Pencil Magazine
“Fierce and finely crafted, The Better Monsters distils life’s strangeness in poems that bridge the gap between warning and augury. A tour-de-force from one of Canada’s most promising writers.” Jim Johnstone – author of The Chemical Life
“Bracing and honest The Better Monsters come[s] from the voice of an outsider…[Dutt] knows exactly how to reach us…tender and tragic poems…Dutt makes it real on the page…these poems endure, Dutt’s voice ultimately never gives up hope and that’s the magic…these poems…have been tempered over hotter flame then any of us will endure…human in a way that allow[s] all readers to get to the center of them. But once there Dutt isn’t reluctant to insist you see the battles and the battle scars from a new position. Dutt aims for The Better Monsters amongst us human beings and emerges at the end of her harrowing journey still embracing hope. That’s courage.” – michaeldennispoet.blogspot.ca
“A fine collection of poems…straddle both a politically informed and nostalgically personal perspective…both counteracts the danger of desensitization and inserts a lyrical voice. Dutt cuts out, cuts up and leaves scars throughout her writing…syntactically disintegrates a moment of violence…to poetically convey the force of extremity.” Klara du Plessis – Broken Pencil Magazine, review of PTSD south beach
“PTSD south beach stood out…with its own singular brilliance.” Phantom Books – 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize, Finalist
A finalist for the 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize, Puneet Dutt’s is a fine collection of poems, coherently selected to straddle both a politically informed and nostalgically personal perspective.
As the post-traumatic stress disorder of the title would suggest, PTSD south beach projects organized violence, war, as a given, but then filters it through the harrowing experience of the individual.
An immediate positioning of the first person in relation to combat, the chapbook’s first poem “what do i know of war?” introduces a climate of omnipresent aggression; no one is safe; a person can innocently leave home in the morning to end up in “a blue body bag.” In a world of guns, drones, forces, troops, military, screams, fighting… the insistence on measuring extremity through the personal both counteracts the danger of desensitization and inserts a lyrical voice into the poems. In “coordinates,” a poem about separation, the distance between locations is quantified through “how far / from daughter / from mother / from herself she will be / from me.” The sad irony is, of course, that although “there is always war,” “no one ever” wants to be affected by it.
A significant formal choice, Dutt cuts out, cuts up and leaves scars throughout her writing. For example, she insinuates a political agenda, but doesn’t articulate a stance, rather expecting the reader to interpret the innuendo of blanks: “blogs read: Washington’s Uneasy Partnership With Tehran / or _______” Similarly, she syntactically disintegrates a moment of violence: “scarring the seams of our backs / ask / can we this our own sun give.” Through excision and confusion, Dutt is able to poetically convey the force of extremity.
(Klara du Plessis) Broken Pencil Magazine, Issue 74, Friday, February 17th, 2017. http://www.brokenpencil.com/news/zine-review-ptsd-south-beach
“PTSD south beach stood out of the crowd with its own singular brilliance” – Ryann Stevenson, Chapbook Series Editor (Phantom Books)
Winner of the Flash Future Fiction Contest (4th place)
“So, what’s hot today? In the mood for…strange? Give this one a try. It’s lyrical, shocking, and just a bit too close…for comfort. A 2015 Worth a Read.” – Stephen Vramey, Author of Glass Animals (Pure Slush Books)
– Sang Kim, Author (A Dream Called Laundry, Ballad of a Karaoke Cowboy, and Woody Allen Ate My Kimchi)
“It’s a very cool little poem, clearly aware of tropes and prepared to flirt with them before twisting to the zombie POV. The imploring insistence of ‘we’re not the bad guys.’ Some beautiful use of language.”
– J. Michael Melican, Author/Blogger