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Book Reviews

Somebody Else Sold the World

Somebody Else Sold the World lyrically evocates how times change without changing. Adrian Matejka’s fifth poetry collection transmogrifies our now as the titular, Bowie-inspired poem, “Somebody Else Sold the World,” (cycled throughout the book) gets lifted by funnel cloud and transported to another phase—as was house transferring Dorothy from Kansas to Oz. Now, we’re off-kiltered, living in chaos—COVID, BLM, insurgency, transphobia/gender validation, voting, taxes, truth vs. the big lie. Now, we implore for some essence of semblance for then in this new place, as we did back there, in our old place.  

Matejka red-flags now—unwraps how “We talked/about was & when.” How “Words lost their family recipes.” Or how “He was given all of it & stole the best/of the rest.” Additionally, revelation regenerates in “It’s all I Have/ Daydreaming.” Matejka oscillates our human duality, while in conversation with Emily Dickinson’s line, “It’s all I have to bring today,” and Radiohead’s song, “Daydreaming.” Matejka pinpoints—

                              All of us backstroking, so there’s 
                              only sky to see clearly in the soak. 

He reflects this “soak” and this search for beyond the deep of our collective distress, wholeheartedly.

Nonetheless, there’s longing, reaching, in lilt of lyrics and atmospheric-musicality wandering throughout the melody of Rhye’s “Count to Five.” Matejka examines the interconnectedness of Rhye’s rhythm, exacting a rhythm of poetics reached in his own “Count to Five” (a poem with the same title)— 

                                              Nobody panics 
                              except me. Nobody feels 
                              out of place except me. 
                              The hangers-on hit 
                              the mini-mart for menthols 
                              & juice. Everybody 
                              but me with someplace 
                              to be & I’m not supposed 
                               to be here, middle-aged 
                               as medieval script 
                             on a silk shirtsleeve. 
                             Things have changed 
                             since the last time I was 

He longs, reaches, for connection—for more. He’s the medium. Matejka’s intersectionality of race, class, and gender craves common ground, social footing—validation in an environment where “place” feels placeless.

The above, in bold, elucidates an internalized rebirth of vulnerability, where most feel the same internalization but never strive to collectively address such—faltering, again, to reach some universal healing. The author inspires, through influential artists, the music cues for hope-slices.

Matejka grasps transcendental, vexes between what we were and what we are vs. where we were and where we’re headed—realizing disappointment performs in the circularity of our existence. He exemplifies our providence in the first cycle poem for “Love Notes”—

                              Like one of those early recordings, you’ll 
                              be scratchy & demystified. Untranscribably 
                              confessional until the last quarter note 

                              is a processional. 

His ear’s attuned to play with enjambment and internal rhyme, enhanced by polysyllabic apertures for stronger, tonal, constructs.

There’s musical dexterity to Matejka’s lyricism, resembling a Blues’ melancholia, with a creativity grasping hope—a psychological divide fighting for collectiveness. Diverse music is symbiotic to aspirations for a mended, diverse, humanity. Matejka writes to uplift. Transparent of us vying to cope. Exposing how messy, this life.

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. Crisler has five full-length poetry books, two YA books and five poetry chapbooks. He’s been published in a variety of magazines, journals and anthologies. He’s been an editor and contributing poetry editor. Also, he created the poetry form called the sonastic, and he created the Indiana Chitlin Circuit. He is a Professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW). He can be contacted at

Monthly reviews of books written by Indiana authors are made possible by the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards and Indiana Humanities. Opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the reviewer, not any affiliated entity.