Rodney Robinson

Review of Hal Sirowitz's Before, During & After (Soft Skull Press, 2003, $13).

Poets like filmmakers often retreat into what is familiar and what has 'worked' in the past. That is why all of Martin Scorsese's films or late Picassos look the same. It is obvious from Hal Sirowitz's new work that this is what has happened to the Poet Laureate of the Borough of Queens.

Before, During & After is viewed as part of a trilogy along with Mother Said and My Therapist Said to form what his press calls a side splitting unforgettable glimpse into the life of everybody's favorite pessimist. The question that I kept asking myself throughout this book is has this not already been done? Hasn't Woody Allen or Henry Miller explored this territory? Can anyone possibly care about these internal sexual monologues?

Can anyone seriously want to read a book where one poem's first line is "Let me start off by showing you the location of my clitoris" or innumerable poems about penis's and other body parts? Does anyone want to hear this stuff? Has it not already been done?

A poem that tends to ratchet up the yuck factor is the following, called "Full Cycle." It brings forth the selfabsorbion to new heighths.

Full Cycle

I'd love to Rub Chocolate
over your body she said, then
slowly lick it off. Unfortunately
it's too fattening. When I put on
some extra pounds I stop feeling
good about myself. I don't like
to be seen naked when I get like that.
If I'm not naked, how are we supposed
to have sex? It's a vicious cycle.
It's easier to just do it without the chocolate.

It is not the lack of innovation or the fact that the word "I" is used in some form 6 times in a 9 line poem but that fact that something that might be interesting is made into a banal, therapy filled mental masturbation. The poetry in this book is written from a place that most people would rather not tread, that of the neurotic who lives between Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean; we can only hope that in the future the Poet of Queens gets some new fresh air and language to boot.

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