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