Review: gusher | Christopher Stephen Soden

Originally published on Reedsy Discovery

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Gusher by Christopher Soden explores the poet’s lived experience as a Queer American male through stunning storytelling relayed in narrative, long-form poetry. Soden’s voice is honest yet reflective of a poet who has matured into their craft; he knows exactly what to cut and what to elaborate for the reader as they are indulged in experience. Soden has created a moving recollection to provide a simple yet impactful insight into being Queer, American and male, grounded in life lived and survived.

Soden’s style is very enjoyable to read; the narrative poetry allows time for the reader pause, to collect their thoughts and experiences around the poet’s, and thus find themselves within the speaker even if the lived experience differs, because while Soden offers a glimpse into his life, he captures the facets of humanity too. ‘Drive-in movie’ is immediately evocative of youth, first love and sex, with its rhythm and eroticism, while ‘Jockstrap’ is almost the older sibling to this piece as the speaker embraces sexuality and sensuality through the richness of our sensory response to the world and people.

“The music of their raucous play was a symphony of light, / as if sun, moon, stars, comets, had broken and drenched me / with their liquid blaze.” [Jockstrap]

Beyond this, Soden portrays what it is to reminisce and to be human in how we cling to nostalgia; ‘Because they are not eight’ tells the story of Ronnie and is a masterful example of the poet’s storytelling. And finally, the juxtaposition between poems like ‘Eulogy’ and ‘That Day’, both about the speaker’s late father, explore the kaleidoscope that is father and son relationships, grief and love.

“I cannot believe it / has taken me fifty-two years / to stumble upon this epiphany. / I cannot believe I’m telling / you that I love him.” [That Day]

Subsequently, any lover of poetry will appreciate Gusher for Soden’s mature and well-constructed craft. If anything it is a masterclass in narrative, long-form poetry! And, of course, anyone within the LGBTQIA+ community who may be looking for a place to land and belong will enjoy Gusher. As a bisexual woman I found comfort in the presentation of sexuality as Soden acknowledges both its vast expanses and hidden corners.

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