Photo by Luke Peterson

Maged Zaher’s New Book Is a Biography of Sex, Software, and Worldwide Revolution

The new 15-year-spanning poetry collection reveals the author’s particular personal evolution.

There comes a time in every poet’s life when they must set aside their lofty goals and get on down to the pressing business of fucking. I’m not talking about flowery love poems—I mean the kind of horny writing that drops all metaphor and imagery and makes it clear that genital-to-genital contact is about to happen.

The poems in the beginning of Maged Zaher’s new collection, Opting Out: Early, New & Collected Poems 2000–2015, are about as thirsty as poems can get. The third poem concludes, “well, the truth is, i was too drunk to unhook her bra/but we fucked anyway.” Elsewhere, he says “i drove to work/thinking of undressing you/only with my mouth.” The bra doesn’t stand for eternity, the mouth is not a clever use of synecdoche. This is a man who wants to get it on—joyfully, unapologetically, repeatedly.

There’s a particular pleasure to be found in massive volumes that collect a poet’s work chronologically: You can watch trends and fascinations come and go, you can see the work evolve and take on new shapes. About 50 pages after those early horndog poems, Zaher starts to drift into a new realm:

“once you overstep your limit

and learn to follow

the best practices document

invite your friends over

to decipher cryptographic codes

and alleviate your failings”

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online here at

Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at

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