We Deserve The Gods We Ask For
by Seth Brady Tucker
Gival Press

"and then you think about what
you are and what you wanted to be,
and then you begin to look at the choices
you made."

Seth Brady Tucker, author of Elixir Press award-winning poetry, Mormon Boy, returns with a bang in We Deserve the Gods We Ask For, recipient of the Gival Press Poetry Award. Tucker's experience as a paratrooper with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division seeps seamlessly into his fearless and witty writing style; his command of poetry is unquestionably superior and evident by his use of literary devices, particularly imagery, similes, metaphors, and enjambments. As a singer uses his voice to establish rhythm and pacing, Tucker uses words and syntax to emphasize certain lines and give the piece a musical feel. The audience will appreciate Tucker's gunslinger mentality when it comes to speaking his mind: He delivers his message with conviction and not even the slightest bit of hesitation.

The collection opens with, "In the Beginning," a creative, Tuckerian version of the creation story. Many of Tucker's poems are light-hearted and humorous, poking fun at the shortcomings of life as a way of creating awareness; however, "Beautiful Boys in Brodie Helmets" is as serious and compelling as his writing gets. One of the images that stands out is the group of soldiers holed up as they are being shelled, still waiting on, "hope like an umbrella of prayer." What is made distinctly clear is that the soldiers encounter something so treacherous that they are permanently changed; those that make it home have never truly left their respective war zones. In the 21st century, terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have made their way into commonplace vernacular. Soldiers, on the surface, are showered with blessings and praise. Outside of the limelight, though, the reality is starkly different, and abhorrent. The recent revelation of the atrocious treatment of veterans at VA hospitals is sickening and reinforces the idea that many of our soldiers suffer more after returning home.

We Deserve the Gods We Ask For dedicates multiple poems to iconic characters from the 1990s, and it couldn't be more entertaining. "Wile E. Coyote" focuses on the somewhat dim-witted villain who was constantly outsmarted by the RoadRunner in the Looney Tunes cartoon. He is depicted taking Percocet, Valium, and Vicodin, pain-relievers that ultimately turn one into a junkie. Tucker's representation of Popeye in "Popeye, Off-Camera," is perhaps the most eye-popping. In so many ways, Popeye is nothing short of a cartoon God, a classical figure that embodies everything that is right with humanity. This poem portrays Popeye as a broke, has-been who is now an alcoholic nomad watching a souped-up version of himself on television save Olive Oyl after an infusion of spinach-fueled, muscle-bulging. Millennials will no doubt appreciate references to their favorite childhood characters, which also include the "Last Letter to Superman," and the Marvel and DC Comics' Sandman and Aquaman respectively.

The second section, "Our Unanswered Prayers," dwells more on the abstract and metaphysical. Of all the poems in this section, one stands out like a burning light in a darkened tunnel: "Waiting for Your Life to Start." The speaker of the poem is shaving in the morning—nothing out of the ordinary—and suddenly realizes that he is losing the keep away game with time. This poem is evergreen and universal, an ode to the "when I grow up, I want to be," phrase. Unfortunately, many have grown up and are still waiting for their life to start, waiting to make that change that transforms their life. In "Who She Is," Tucker's use of line breaks and enjambments helps control pacing and creates an aesthetically appealing structure that is easy on the eyes. From the viewpoint of content, "Who She Is," shows how those that are perceived as inferior and worthless are often swept under the carpet, ignored, and neglected.

The third and final section, "Death is a Prayer," features otherworldly and spectacular poems like "1955 (What Kerouac Says to Ginsberg in Heaven) the Contract," and the ultimate, but no less potent, "It Makes Me Sad For Everyone." From a scintillating conversation between twentieth-century prolific poems Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to a heartbreaking realization that the poet within must perish, audiences will find this section hard to put down.

Poetry often appeals to the emotion, and while the range of emotions can be infinite, most compilations appeal to the same emotions of love, spirit, etc. We Deserve The Gods We Ask For certainly possesses these emotions; however, it goes a step further and packages aesthetically pleasing poems with fiery, energetic, and evergreen content that has the potential to hold its own in any generation. Seth Brady Tucker's offering certainly deserves a first read, and for those inclined, a second read to fish out the hidden gems layered within the poems.

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