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Before, During & After: Poems

by Hal Sirowitz

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Before, During & After, Hal Sirowitz
Soft Skull Press
October 2003


Hal Sirowitz is the most accessible and refreshing professional poet working today. His short paragraph-length vignettes do away with the overtly artsy (some might say pompous) flowery-ness that has come to define the sad state of contemporary written poetry in America. Funny, to-the-point, and enjoyable on multiple levels, Sirowitz is one of the few successful poets today who writes poetry for people (as in everyone) to read, not for the sake of some inferiority-complex infused dream of being included in the cannon of modern literary elites that rarely dare beyond the classroom door of a university survey course.

His newest collection from Soft Skull Press entitled "before, during & after" deals with a shy mal-adjusted narrator's experience with sex (it's the unwritten subject of the title). These short narratives explore all the complications and tribulations of dating, relationships, and, above all else, sex. The book is divided into three sections that deal with relationships in their proximity to the sexual act (as the title implies). They go from silly to dirty to sweet without skipping a beat and keeps the reader grinning with each page.

The Easy Part

So far this date is going well,
she said. Dinner is always
the easiest part. It's what
comes after that's the problem.
Just because a guy buys dinner
doesn't mean he deserves to have sex.
He has to do other things to show
he's worthy. In the old days
he had to slay a dragon. Nowadays
you're lucky if he helps you kill
some mice. The last guy I knew
wouldn't even pick up the traps
when he was at my house.
He told me to call an exterminator.


Sirowitz’s style is Woody Allen, Larry David, and any number of Jewish comedians who explore the anxious side of social interactions bundled up into short burst of immediate literary smile juice. Sirowitz has achieved a curious cult following in Norway of all places, where previous collections have been best-sellers, a play has been produced out of his work, and animated versions of his poems were created for Norwegian television. He attributes his international success as a Jewish, English-speaking American in Norway to being “the other,” but with the minions of “others” around, his success should be more attributed to his talent, vision, and simple ability to achieve written truth.

Full Cycle

I'd love to rub chocolate syrup
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.

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