Kristie Betts Letter drew me into her work of poetry from the very dedication of her collection, Under-Worldly. There is a whimsical playfulness in Letter’s words that is often contradicted by the gripping images that her succinct phrases elicit. This is not poetry of the old school, this is verse that expresses and expands, pulling images and emotion from a variety of familiar songs, literature, and phrases. Letter utilizes lines from great literature and popular music to set the stage for her poems and often interweaves the lyrics right into the piece. It is an effective weaving and Betts will draw you through her book as she delves deeper into all thing “under.” Under-Worldly deals with love and loss, of growing old, of eugenics, birth control. Letter draws up our lost puppies from childhood, she explores Purgatory and Paradise, and pays tribute to the 80’s hair bands and delves into the social norms, acceptable behavior, the failures of a government to its people, the heartbreak of a dying mother, the stark recognition of abortion.
I enjoyed Kristie Betts Letter’s technique in Under Worldly. It was powerful, the way she created full color, full imagined stories with the fewest of words. She does a masterful job of telling a story, which you may not fully appreciate until you reach the end. Letter’s poetry is clean and precise and very evocative. I lingered on within the pages, pausing over the lines of print and drawing a small set of words to a fully developed scene. “Brick House” took my again to my own childhood home, and it will probably take you to yours, too. While many of Letter’s poems were simple to process, others I read through several times, pausing and appreciating the rhythms caused by my voice rising
into the air, before the comprehension dawned and the fog shifted away. It’s a collection well worth recommendation.