Dear Future Boyfriend

Dear Future Boyfriend offers fans of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz a glimpse of the poet’s bittersweet past. The book is a reissue of her debut collection, which was initially published a little over a decade ago. As the title suggests, the focus of the collection is young love in all of its forms — excerpt, perhaps, the requited variety. Rather than coming across as a hopeless, pining adolescent throughout this volume, Aptowicz endears herself to the reader by coming across as a witty, charming, and self-deprecating adolescent who also happens to be hopeless and pining — a teen who wants nothing more than to be loved but also can’t help stopping to observe that a 25% off coupon for a discount bra store in the largest outlet mall in Pennsylvania does not make for the most romantic of anniversary gifts. Moreover, the poet doesn’t focus entirely on young love in this collection. Aptowicz also takes time to pay touching homage to her parents, her hometown, and the friends who shared the experiences that led her to becoming the poet she is today.

Of special note, at least for a Philadelphia native like myself, are the poems “August in Philadelphia,” which offers a backwards glimpse at the City of Brotherly Love as the poet prepares for her first big move to the Big Apple, and “To the Boy Who Builds and Paints Sets at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia,” which is a fitting paean not only to the “boy” in question but also to hopeless infatuation itself. Also noteworthy are “The Guy Who Hated My Stuff on Poemfone (A Found Poem),” in which the poet reproduces a borderline psychotic voice-mail response to one of her poems to great comic effect, and “Hard Bargain,” which sees the poet making an IPO of sorts for the rights to her virginity.

Anyone who’s ever been young and in love will find something to enjoy in Dear Future Boyfriend. What’s more, fans of Cristin O’Keefe Apotwicz will enjoy bearing witness to the initial stirrings of wit and sharp observation that mark her later work. Overall, a fun and at times moving read.

-Review by Marc Schuster

Oh Terrible Youth

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for anything set in the Philadelphia of my childhood, and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz‘s recently re-issued collection of poetry Oh Terrible Youth captures that time and place perfectly. Aptowicz, it turns out, is a Philadelphia native, and her poetry speaks not only to the peculiar challenges inherent in coming of age in the City of Brotherly Love in the 1980s, but also to the forces of uncertainty that young people across the country confront during any era as they cross over into the choppy waters of adulthood.

The collection does a wonderful job of blending humor and pathos with a touch of sentimentality. Early on, Aptowicz recounts a number of “worsts” of her childhood: worst games (“Let’s see who can be the quietest” and “Regular Battleship when all your friends have Electronic Battleship” chief among them) and worst Halloween costumes (including “birthday present,” “Santa Claus,” and “homemade Ewok”). Later in the collection, she looks back somewhat wistfully on all that she took for granted in her childhood, as in “Apologies to My Childhood Dog” and my favorite piece, “Estephania,” which distills, among other things, the essence of being “best friends.”

While the poems in Oh Terrible Youth are largely about childhood, they’re also poems that only an adult could write. Throughout the collection, Aptowicz manages to strike a balance between the raw uncertainty of adolescence and the (relative) self-assurance of maturity. We laugh with her as she recalls the kinds of things that kept us all up at night as we muddled through our teenage years, yet we also smile with compassion for the children we were — trying to make sense of the universe, trying to make sense of ourselves, trying to convince everyone that we did, in fact, have it all together when, at the end of the day, we knew for sure that we didn’t.

An excellent collection. Highly recommended for anyone who’s ever been a teen.

-Review by Marc Schuster